As part of our Mental Health 101 series we discuss depression. We briefly look what feeds its development and maintenance and we touch on approaches to treatment.
Research suggests that the traditional ideals of what it means to be a 'man' may negatively impact men's mental health and discourage them from being open about how they’re feeling. Societal expectations about how men should behave and what masculinity is can be harmful to their mental health and lead to an environment of secrecy, making it less likely that someone will open up.
"Man up" has become a damaging phrase used in everyday life with connotations of hyper-masculinity. From childhood, the media shows us what men should be, and from a young age, we are taught that being a man is synonymous with power and athletic prowess. These themes being represented continuously in the news and media have lasting effects on boys and men.
Compared to women, men are far less likely to confide in a friend or partner to seek professional help. Talking about mental health might not fit within the idea of what it means to be masculine which could make men feel like a failure for having a problem, but taking the first step to talk about mental health takes exactly those traits the media portray, courage and strength.
Our Head of Psychology, Dr Heather Bolton, worked for several years as a clinical psychologist in an inner London prison. Her experience echoed some of the research findings: "I was amazed at how much effort some men made to portray a "tough guy" image when inside they were consumed with anxiety or depression. It often seemed to me that the harder the exterior that someone portrayed, the more turmoil there was going on underneath."
Sadly, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 with one man dying globally by suicide every minute. Suicide prevention has presented a global challenge for many years, new figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that suicide rates in the UK in 2018 hit the highest level in 16 years, marking a 12% increase on the previous year.
In order for this to change we need to start opening up the mental health conversation and start appreciating that we all have mental health, that our state of mental wellbeing exists on a spectrum, and that our position on this spectrum is a fluid experience which fluctuates over time. Ultimately, by doing so, we can ensure we get people the right care, at the right time.
Men's mental health needs more attention and opening up the conversation is key to changing the landscape and encouraging openness. Several campaigns and charities have brought men's mental health into the spotlight:
Amongst other things, Movember tackles men's mental health and suicide prevention. Viewing men's mental health through a male lens, they focus on early intervention, engaging men, and working to their strengths. By 2030, Movember wants to reduce the rate of male suicide by 25%.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably, otherwise known as CALM is a leading movement against male suicide. From the CALM cycle club through to their CALM student programme, they want to open up the conversation around mental health.