Over the past year I think we can agree that everyone has faced their own mental challenges and struggles. Not being able to see and hug loved ones, working from home and feeling isolated, or maybe even having employment and financial worries. It may or may not come as a surprise but evidence suggests that around 77% of men in the UK suffer with some degree of mental health illness throughout their lifetime. The most common symptoms being stress, anxiety, panic disorder, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Societal expectations and traditional gender roles have shown to be a significant reason why men are less likely to want to discuss, reach out or open up about their mental health. When in relationships or having a family, men are often expected to be the strong, dominant breadwinners of the household and even though there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, men will find it more difficult to open up and talk about their mental health. Typically men will identify this as a weakness and that it is not a ‘manly’ thing to talk about and will worry that others will think less of them.
The current state of men’s mental health
- 75% of suicides in the UK are committed by men with the average age between 40-49
- National government surveys state that men have lower levels of life satisfaction compared to females
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies for their mental health compared to women
- Compared to women, men are three times as likely to turn to alcohol and drug misuse when experiencing mental health issues
- At the extreme, men make up the vast majority of the prison population. It is shown that there is a significant impact on their mental health whilst inside potentially leading to self-harm.
Common reasons men feel depressed
- Relationship troubles: Whether this is with a husband or wife or any important relationship, this has a high potential of triggering signs of depression
- Separation and divorce: It has been shown that it is more common for men to be depressed after a serious breakup compared with women. Reasons for this include seeing children less, having to move out of the family home and financial pressures related to divorce
- Work/ unemployment: If you really don’t enjoy your job or work colleagues then every day you turn up will be a struggle. Over time this will result in having a low mood and energy, a lack of motivation and feelings of a poor quality of life. Research has shown that 1 in 7 males who become unemployed develop depressive thoughts within 6 months.
Is depression different for men compared to women?
Even though there isn’t a classified ‘male depression’, certain symptoms are shown to be more common in men when experiencing mental health issues. These include;
- Increased risk taking
- Increased loss of control
- Sudden anger
Top tips for looking after your mental health
1. Open up and talk about your feelings
For most men this is probably the hardest step to take as it relates back to the perception of others thinking that you are ‘less of a man’ if you open up about your feelings. Talking and being listened to can be a great way of coping with anything that you are carrying around in your head. If you don’t feel comfortable initially talking to a friend or loved one then seek the help of a counsellor who will listen and give you expert advice how to manage and deal with your feelings. Remember, do not be embarrassed or ashamed about your feelings. There is always someone to talk to.
There is strong evidence to suggest the food we eat links directly to how we feel. We are all aware of the immediate ‘feel good’ effects of sugar and caffeine on the body, however we need to ensure that we are looking after the long term function of our brain and other organs by eating a healthy and a well-balanced diet. Try to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. There’s no denying that we enjoy the feeling and changes to our mood after a few alcoholic drinks as it helps to deal with stressful situations and relaxes us. However it is important to remember that when the alcohol wears off we can often feel worse and feel sorry for ourselves the following morning. It is important to remember that the more often you drink alcohol the more you will need to consume to experience the desired affects. This can cause a wide range of health issues…
3. Do something you enjoy and learning something new
Taking a break from working and chores to get lost in something you really enjoy is a great way to combat stress. This could be anything from gardening to learning to play the guitar. When your mind is focused on what you are doing and you are relaxed this can help to reduce blood pressure, boost self-esteem and help to forget about the stresses of day to day life.
4. Keeping active
We are all aware of the physical benefits of physical activity however the benefits don’t stop there. When you exercise an area of the brain is triggered releasing a range of ‘happy’ hormones called serotonin and endorphins. The release of these chemicals helps to promote the overall sense of wellbeing by minimising pain and maximising pleasure. Being active also encourages the release of serotonin which helps to reduce symptoms of depression and is a natural mood stabiliser. The recommended daily dose of exercise is just 30 minutes and this can simply involve going for a brisk walk. So whenever you feel as though you are feeling a little low in mood and self esteem, put your trainers on and go for a short walk which will instantly lift your mood and make you feel better.
Organisations and self help tools
- Headspace https://www.headspace.com/ce
- CALM https://www.calm.com/
- MIND https://www.mind.org.uk/
- The Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
- Men’s Health Forum https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/
Please remember that if you have any questions, concerns or just want some support always speak to a professional counsellor or psychologist, but please, also don’t hesitate to have a chat with Mark or Adam at the clinic.
Take care and stay healthy