3 in 4 suicides are male. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK. Men are twice as unlikely to seek psychological treatment. As a male with lived experience of mental health problems, I feel well informed in explaining why this may be the case.
I was first diagnosed with a mental health condition myself in late 2016, however I believe I have been suffering for much earlier, probably from around my early teens. When my mum started to pick up on my behaviours and pointed out that I may have a mental health problem, it felt almost impossible for me to tell anybody else. During sixth form, I was experiencing social anxiety, to the point where I was frightened of walking past groups of people. Many of my peers were quite loud and boisterous and I definitely think that influenced my decision in not talking. The class environment was one of joke and laughter, not one where I felt able to talk about my mental health.
While many problems are undoubtedly experienced by both men and women, some difficulties are especially relevant for men. In today’s society, we are still met with the outdated stereotypes that men are: “strong, domineering, stoic, breadwinners” and a culture that says expressing your emotions is a sign of weakness, not strength. Even when men feel capable to open up, they are told to “man-up.” And that’s only going to have negative connotations. This concept that our struggles can be conquered by acting more “like a man” is very misinformed and only adds to the stigma.
If men do not conform to these expectations of society, they are only going to feel like failures and have lower self-esteem. Therefore, for more men to feel able to open and express emotion, it’s so important that we remove this culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ and not discourage men from talking about mental health. It should be greatly encouraged. The challenges of mental ill-health are hard enough as it is without added shame.
Please please make this your mission: If a man in your life is struggling, remember to check in, ask how they are and most importantly listen. Allowing somebody that is the first step to recovery!
Thanks for reading,