Supporting Men’s Mental Health: Navigating the Challenges of Today
In recent years, there has been a significant and welcome shift in men seeking support for their mental health, reflecting data trends in the UK. Historically, men were less likely to seek help compared to women, often only reaching out when in crisis. This delay in seeking support is concerning, as it can lead to severe consequences, affecting their lives, families, and communities.
Data Insights: MeMen’seluctance to Seek Help
Data from the UK Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveals that men are indeed less likely to visit doctors for routine check-ups or discuss mental health concerns. A study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation highlights that men are more prone to use negative coping strategies, such as alcohol and recreational drugs, to manage stress and emotional challenges. 40% of men polled said it would take thoughts of suicide or self-harm to compel them to seek professional help.
Economic Pressures and Mental Health
One critical factor contributing to men’s mental health struggles is the current economic landscape in the UK. The rising cost of living and job insecurity have created a significant gap between personal income and expenditure. Men, who may have traditionally been seen as primary breadwinners, are feeling the strain as their earning potential erodes.
Let’s delve deeper into the data. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the cost of living in the UK has been steadily rising, with inflation rates reaching multi-year highs. This living cost surge directly impacts individuals and families, particularly those with limited financial resources. This financial strain can be particularly distressing for men who have long been responsible for providing for their households.
Consequences of Not Getting Support
- Men are less likely than women to visit a pharmacy when they are sick
On average, men see their GP 4 times a year compared to the 6 six times a year that women go.
- Men visit a pharmacy an average of 4 times a year in contrast to the 18 that women go.
- 9 in 10 men only like to trouble their doctor or pharmacist if they have a severe problem.
The Reasons why Men put of Visiting their GP
- Too busy
- Lack of discussion
- Sign of weakness
Real-Life Client Struggles
Consider John (I have replaced his real name), a man in his 50s who faced mounting stress at work due to job insecurity. This stress led to a drinking problem as a coping mechanism, affecting his marriage and overall mental health. JoJohn’story is a poignant reflection of the experiences of many men grappling with the pressures of modern life.
Positive Shift: Men Embracing Mental Health First Aid
The positive shift in men seeking support extends to mental health first aid training courses. These courses aim to equip individuals with the skills to help others in distress. For the first time, I have witnessed more men than women in attendance, reflecting changing attitudes towards mental health within society.
The Priory’s findings share my experience that men were more likely than women to seek help. Dr Bijlani says, “Traditionally, men have been less likely to seek support for mental health issues. This is probably for several reasons, including stigma and the traditional ‘strong male’ stereotype still prevalent in our society – the idea that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness.” Because of the toll the pandemic has taken across genders, Dr Bijlani says she is “not actually surprised to learn that more men are now coming forward for the first time”.
Navigating the Challenges: 5 Key Steps
As we approach the intense holiday season, it’s crucial for everyone, especially men, to prioritise their mental health. Here are five essential steps to consider:
- Take Time Out for Recovery: Use the holiday period to take breaks, go for walks, and carve out moments of relaxation. It’s essential to dedicate some time solely to self-care.
- Talk to Someone You Trust: Sharing your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or professional can provide much-needed support and perspective.
- Identify Stressors: Recognise the sources of your stress and work on strategies to address them. Don’t let it accumulate to a breaking point.
- Seek Immediate Help in Crisis: If you’re feeling suicidal, engaging in self-harm, or struggling with depression, don’t hesitate to seek professional help immediately. Reach out to helplines or crisis intervention services.
- Plan for Positive Change: As we approach the new year, create a plan for positive changes in 2024. Identify the areas in your life that need improvement, seek help, and commit to making those changes. Consider appointing an accountability partner to support your journey.
Embracing Self-Care: Daily Rituals
Self-care is an integral part of maintaining good mental health. Create a list of self-care activities that resonate with you. Start with one and build from there. Activities can range from meditation and gratitude exercises to short walks, gym sessions, breathing exercises, or simply spending time with friends and loved ones.
In Conclusion: The Power of Conversation
In conclusion, the increasing number of men seeking support for their mental health, supported by UK data trends, is a positive shift that should be celebrated. It’s essential to recognise that seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a step towards better mental wellbeing. As we approach the New Year, let’s reaffirm our commitment to mental health and encourage open conversations about our challenges. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. In the words of R. H. Sin, “You are “stronger than you think and more loved than you believe.”