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Supporting men with mental health issues

Mental health issues can affect anyone irrespective of gender, age, socioeconomic status or cultural background. However, certain mental health conditions can present differently in men than women.

In England, 1 in 8 males have some form of common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or stress related conditions. However, they only make up one third of referrals received by psychological services.

Men are less likely to seek help and psychological intervention, so despite there being more women diagnosed with mental health problems, men are more likely to commit suicide, mainly before the age of 50. Being less willing to discuss emotional needs and mental health difficulties can delay access to appropriate treatment and recovery, leading to serious debilitating consequences.

Spotting the signs and symptoms

Men and women tend to present with different signs and symptoms of mental illness, with men more commonly presenting with one or more of the following:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless or on edge
  • Increased risk taking behaviours
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Suicidal thoughts, though may not discuss with others
  • Physical health symptoms such as pain/aches
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Thoughts or behaviours that interfere with work, family, or social life

Why are mental health symptoms different in men?

  • Societal norms and expectation – concept of ‘masculinity’ and expectation to adhere to the ‘norms’
  • Attitudes – men are generally more competitive and want to feel strong and in control. They are less likely to share their vulnerability
  • Coping mechanism – instead of sharing emotions and feelings, they may use drugs, alcohol or other risk taking behaviours
  • Different hormonal changes
  • Stress and pressure – expectation of being the breadwinner creating financial, employment and family pressures

Recognising the signs of mental illness, like male anxiety symptoms for example, as early as possible, is the first step towards them accessing support and help. Early diagnosis, intervention and treatment can improve outcomes, recovery and overall quality of life. 

Considering the differences across conditions

Substance misuse

  • Men are more likely to be involved in alcohol and substance misuse and are nearly 3 times more likely to be dependent on alcohol
  • 67% of British people who consume alcohol at ‘hazardous’ levels are male, along with 80% of those dependent on alcohol
  • Almost 3 quarters of people dependent on cannabis and 69% of those dependent on other illegal drugs are male
  • According to Statistics on Drug Misuse in England 2018, more men who use drugs are admitted into hospital and die, compared to women who use drugs
  • Men suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties are more likely to have problems with alcohol and substance misuse. Men may use alcohol or substances as a means of avoiding emotional pain and distress and can be an effective avoidance strategy for the short term, with detrimental long-term mental health consequences
  • It is a well-known fact that those who misuse alcohol and illicit substances can show increased anger and aggressive behaviour


  • Fewer men than women are diagnosed with depression as they either do not seek help or attempt less to minimise the distress
  • Men are less likely to share their feelings and emotional needs than women
  • Men suffering from depression may hide their emotions and feelings and appear angry, irritable and aggressive whereas women may appear sad and emotional
  • Men may present to their doctor with more physical health symptoms such as pains, aches and physiological symptoms of anxiety rather than low mood


  • Suicide is one of the leading killers in men under 50 years of age
  • Men are three times more likely to take their own life compared to women and according to Men’s Health forum, 4 out of 5 suicides are by men
  • Although more women attempt suicide, more men are successful due to the more dangerous methods they use
  • Men are less likely to reach out for help when feeling suicidal

How can a GP help?

Ask relevant questions:

  • Ask about suicidal ideation and intent. Don’t hesitate or ignore
  • Recognise any change in behaviour or attitude (mainly anger, irritability, aggression or risk taking behaviour)
  • Consider that physical health symptoms may be related to stress, anxiety or depression
  • Ask about increased alcohol or drug use
  • Ask family members or carers of any recent changes in behaviour/attitude
  • Check if there has been any changes in relationships, employment and economic status
  • Encourage and support earlier access to diagnosis and treatment
  • Early referral and treatment can prevent deterioration
  • Raise awareness and recognise that mental health problems are lot more common in men than we think

How can Priory help and support?

  • Accessing support and help can take many forms, such as medications, therapy, inpatient admission and psychosocial interventions, all available at Priory
  • We provide a safe place for an individual to share their feelings and emotions in a timely manner
  • We provide a supportive environment and offer encouragement. Individuals become aware of ones vulnerabilities and challenges and can recognise the need for treatment
  • We hold expertise in recognising and treating a wide range of mental health conditions
  • We offer prompt referrals and assessments
  • We have therapists who provide evidence-based treatment with a focus on recovery
  • People often feel a huge sense of relief once they recognise their condition and have access to evidence-based treatment

Download our support leaflet to provide your patients with further information and advice that they can take away with them.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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