Men's mental health checklist
When you think about men’s health what goes through your mind? Do you go straight to physical health issues like obesity and testicular cancer? Or cultural factors like smoking or drinking? Does mental health ever cross your mind?
Men’s Health Month, also known as Movember, annually highlights the importance of discussing men’s health and the conversation gets bigger year on year, involving more and more countries. There are more men sharing pictures of their growing ‘Mos’ and more men taking their health seriously.
So, we have routine checks in place when looking into men’s physical health, but what about the mental ramifications? What can men do to check up on their mental health?
The warning signs: four questions men should ask themselves if they’re struggling with mental health
- Do you still get excited by positive occasions? For example when your team scores, or about a date or meeting friends
- Are you still keen on exercise and do you still get a buzz from it? If your exercise is slipping and you are not motivated to do it, it could be that your mental health is deteriorating
- Are you finding it harder to concentrate on work? Are you able to concentrate on a book or a film?
- Are you losing track of social situations or just avoiding them?
‘Men are from Mars’ – yes, men do handle mental health differently
There is still some truth in the stereotypes that men are fixers and women are talkers. In the past, men have kept their mental health issues to themselves, seeing them as signs of weakness and vulnerability which they did not want to show and risk losing social status. While that is changing, the gender difference still remains.
Women are more likely to share their concerns with a family or close friend and are more willing to seek professional help than males, and there is still a tendency for young men in particular to use alcohol or drugs as an outlet for the way they’re feeling.
Don’t put it off
In most situations, if you ignore a mental health problem it will get worse if it is not appropriately treated. The most common mental health issues to look out for are anxiety, stress and depression. Anxiety in men may present itself differently than in a woman, so it's important to know the signs and symptoms. The same goes for depression. Sometimes depression and anxiety can resolve spontaneously, but for many people, they become long-term or recurrent. Ignoring an episode may mean that you continue to carry it like a heavy weight.
People have described living with depression as like walking through wet cement - everything seems an effort. You can keep going but life is a bigger struggle than it needs to be. Ultimately, if depression deteriorates, men can get lost in their illness and suicide becomes a significant risk. Seeking help for depression is incredibly important so that the condition can be managed. Men with depression need just as much support as anyone else.
Self awareness and self reflection are the key...thinking about how you feel and why you might feel that way.
Where to go if you’d like to talk about your mental health: speak with your GP or get in touch with men’s health charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), or for private mental health treatment, speak with our dedicated enquiries team on: 0845 277 4679.
Stigma and men’s mental health
Rachel Clare, Deputy Director at CALM who released A Crisis in Modern Masculinity: Understanding the Causes of Male Suicide, explained to us that the stigma often associated with men seeking help is still a big problem: “With the majority of us experiencing a mental health issue of some kind in our lifetime, we need to create a culture that enables people to seek timely and appropriate help without fear of judgement or prejudice.
“Men in particular find it very hard to ask for help when they hit a wall, because to do so is often seen as a sign of weakness, or that they are somehow ‘less of a man’ if they admit to not being able to cope. The stigma surrounding men asking for help needs to be tackled urgently, because until all men feel comfortable talking about their mental health openly and without fear of being seen as less of a man for doing so, the growing number of male suicides in this country is going to continue."
From one man to another...
Dr McLaren says: “We are stronger when we accept and address our weaknesses. Mental health issues are common; between one and five or one in six people will seek help for depression at some time in their lives."
Remember three things...
- It does not have to be a major issue
- It does not have to affect your career
- It does not have to affect your relationships
“Depression isolates us and we feel that we are the only people experiencing it. When you ask, you find out that many other people have either had experience of it themselves or have close friends or family who have had similar issues."