International Men’s Day, Men and Their Mental Health
As part of the research for his thesis on Men and their Mental Health ICHAS student, Barry Redmond highlighted some key concerns on this topic. As part of International Men’s Day here is a feature on some of the concerns surrounding men and their mental health and also the stigma that still surrounds it.
Men and Mental Health
Men’s mental health is in crisis, with one in eight men having a common mental health issue.
Rising rates of suicide and substance abuse which are themselves merely demonstrations of underlying issues are becoming increasingly more prevalent on a daily basis (Witley, 2017). These phenomena is being exacerbated by findings from studies such as that carried out in the UK, which found that 28% of men in comparison to 19% of women did not seek help for mental health issues.
The many and varied reasons for these discrepancies are both intriguing and disturbing.
There seems to be an all-encompassing and pervading stigma attached to men’s mental illness, from many different cultural and societal quarters. This stigma produces a form of learned helplessness (Dalla et al 2008) for men, which appears to contribute to a feeling of debilitation for this gender cohort (Health News, 2020).
There are very few social supports for men (the sharing of services or emotional support) (Miner et al 2018) and networks that are so valuable for quality of life, rehabilitation, and mental health outcomes (Agostini et al 2011 cited in Miner et al 2018).
In addition to this, other transformations have taken place which is also impacting on men’s mental health, which are playing a key part in the changing landscape for the traditional perception of what it is to be a man (Chitrakorn, 2019).
Moreover, the predominant and consistent finding from studies on gender shows men indubitably requiring and seeking social supports. This is in preference to, in particular, emotional and appraisal support in times of mental anguish (Mc Kenzie et al 2018).
Stigma and Men’s Mental Health
It is interesting that the survey identified that men worry about wasting their GP’s time with these sorts of problems. It does need to be made clear that depression and anxiety are perfectly legitimate reasons to seek medical care; after all, GP’s spend about 30% of their time dealing with psychological issues” (The Priory. 2020).
The Priory is a prominent independent source for behavioural change, and specifically psychotherapy in the UK, and provides services for 30,000 clients.
To celebrate international men’s day in 2015 they commissioned a survey of men’s mental health in the UK. Their findings were equally interesting and surprising from a professional point of view.
They found that:
- 77% of men surveyed had experienced anxiety, depression and stress at some time in their life
- The biggest stressor for men being work at 32%
- A sizeable proportion (40%) of them saying that suicidal thoughts would eventually prompt them to attend counselling (The Priory. 2020).
Although these figures are stark the same survey found that 60% of respondents did say they would confide in someone in times of need.
Yet the fact that the Priory undertook this survey is reflective of the fact that they and sections of the wider society realise, that there is an issue with men seeking mental health supports.
The stigma men endure in their lives is playing a key part in this, as they have a palpable inclination to worry what others think about them if they show weakness. Society requires that men be “men” and utilise the phrase “man up” in times of emotional pain, does not help
This is especially the case when mental health is already stigmatised in society. Similarly, with the increased susceptibility of society to show and strive for perfection, it has also increased the likelihood of creating a negative environment for men to express their problems (Pittaro, 2018).
This socialisation produces a self-defeating macho bravado that discriminates men from seeking support in a time of mental anguish (Pittaro, 2018). Moreover, Pittaro implies that this misguided approach by men and by extenuation society, which essentially forces them into a corner is a significant reason for the increase of depression in men of all ages. A way to address this issue would be to reduce the stigma for men. One notable way would be a consistent media campaign. From such a campaign would arise the encouragement for men to seek help and support.
Here is an example from Time to Change. In 2017, it launched In Your Corner, a five-year campaign inspired by 12 months of research into men’s and young people’s attitudes towards mental health.
Want To Learn More on International Men’s Day?
The debate surrounding men and their mental health is finally something that’s being openly discussed. Events such as Movember are helping to spread awareness around topics like this and there is also Green Ribbon Month.
Barry also did some research for his thesis on the subject of masculinity and mental health.