Mental health issues can affect everyone: around the globe, 792 million people are currently living with them. While men are half as likely as women to experience these issues, they are far more likely to die by suicide. We examine some of the main mental health issues facing men, how to get support if you are a man facing these issues, and ways you can support the men you know.
Stigmas around men and mental health
Society often expects people to behave in certain ways and adhere to particular stereotypes. In many cultures, men are expected to be strong and ‘masculine’, and to not talk about their emotions. In addition, needing help can be considered a sign of weakness.
Conforming to traditional views of masculinity increases the risk for men who experience mental health issues. For example, the American psychological association found that Veterans who adhered to these views experienced more severe PTSD. A 2016 report in the Clinical Psychology Review found that men who feel unable to speak about their emotions are less able to recognize symptoms of mental health problems in themselves.
The result of these societal expectations is that men are far less likely than women to talk about the feelings they are experiencing and to seek help when they need it. According to a 2016 Mental Health Foundation survey of 6247 people, 28% of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced - compared to 19% of women. The survey also found that a third of women who disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or loved one did so within a month, compared to only a quarter of men.
What are some of the mental health issues facing men?
In the UK, suicide is the lead cause of death for men under the age of 50. In 2017, 75% of recorded suicides in the country were men. Suicide is sometimes called the ‘silent’ killer because often, even people close to the person weren’t aware of the feelings they were experiencing.
Depression is characterised by a persistently low mood which prevents someone from daily function. A National Health Interview Survey conducted in 2013 reports that men who experience severe depressive symptoms are half as likely as women with the same symptoms to take medication.
PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that is triggered by a traumatic event. People with PTSD can experience flashbacks, anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.
Signs that you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues
There is no easy way to know if your friend is experiencing mental health issues, especially as it’s something that people find it hard to talk about. It can even be hard to know if you are experiencing mental health difficulties yourself. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
- Sudden changes in behaviour, sleeping or eating patterns
- Persistent sadness or irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Extreme changes in mood
- Loss of energy
- Persistent physical symptoms, like headaches and stomach issues.
- Thinking about suicide
How to support people with mental health difficulties
The most important thing is that we create environments where everyone, regardless of their gender, is able to talk about the problems they’re experiencing, and knows how to seek help. In our Wellbeing section, we have a lot more guides around this topic. For now, here are some basics on helping your friends:
- Be open with your friends. Talk about your own issues, and let you friends know that they can talk to you if they need to.
- Look out for them. If you notice your friend’s behaviour changing, or any other symptoms, ask them how they are feeling.
- Challenge negative behaviours. When friendly banter oversteps the line and starts being potentially damaging, make sure you call it out. In particular, try to challenge remarks that uphold traditional views of masculinity and make it more difficult for men to talk about their feelings.
- Get involved. Support the charities and organisations that are championing support for those who are struggling. Volunteer at events, spread the word, and raise money for worthy causes.
How to get help yourself
If you are struggling with mental health issues, there are a number of options available to you to get the assistance and support you need.
You can schedule in sessions with primary care providers and mental health specialists in the event that you find yourself suffering from any of these symptoms. The NHS in the United Kingdom has provided a mental health directory here to help you find your nearest support group.
There are also many campaigns and charities that provide communal mental health support. Here are a few with international reach that may be good to engage with.
Movember is a charity that’s hoping to change the face of men’s health. They address issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention. Essentially, Movember is raising awareness about issues that men have long struggled to talk about. Check out their video on opening up when things are tough.
CALM stands for the Campaign Against Living Miserably. They’re a UK charity aimed at raising awareness about and preventing male suicide. They have a helpline, as well as tons of information about getting support and getting involved.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a US-based mental health organisation that’s raising awareness and providing support and education to those in need. They have some particularly good resources for teens and young adults.