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Poor mental health can affect men at any age. With statistics showing that suicide is still the biggest killer of men under 50, it’s more important than ever to support the men around us and their mental health. This article explores the different ways you can do this, such as spotting signs and symptoms, through to finding resources and support services in your local area.
In the past few years, we have seen a rise in high profile male figures talking about their own mental wellbeing, including HRH The Prince of Wales. While it isn’t the taboo subject of old, many men still struggle to talk about their own mental health, feeling that speaking out would be an admission of weakness. A survey published by Priory Group revealed that 29% of men feel "too embarrassed" to speak about mental health issues, while 20% feel there is still a "negative stigma" around the topic of male mental health, statistics which highlight that more needs to be done to raise awareness around the issue. Suicide rates tend to be much higher in men than in women, with 5,691 suicides registered in England and Wales, three quarters of whom were men.
Below, we take a look at some of the steps you can take to support men’s mental health.
Depression, anxiety and low mood manifest themselves in different ways depending on the person. There are, however, some indicators you can look out for.
These indicators are not exclusive to men, however there are some symptoms that are more likely to be attributed to depression and low mood in men, such as:
There are a number of reasons why these symptoms are more commonplace in men. Societal concepts of ‘manliness’ means there is extra pressure on adhering to outdated stereotypes, such as being strong, competitive, keeping a stiff upper lip, not sharing personal feelings, etc. In some cases, this leads to men turning to coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol or working obsessively without taking proper breaks.
Once you have recognised that someone may be struggling, there are further steps you can take to offer support.
While some men may prefer to reach out for help in their own time, it is still OK to initiate a conversation when you feel it is appropriate. Something as simple as ‘I’ve noticed you seem a bit down the last few days. Is everything OK?’ may be the first important step on their road to recovery. Find a quiet, safe environment where you have space to talk without fear of interruption. It is possible that he may not feel comfortable or willing to open up at this point, in which case, avoid pushing the topic. Let him know that you are there for him if and when he would like to talk.
It might be tempting to take control of the conversation once someone has opened up to you, but the most important thing you can do at this point is listen rather than interject with well-meaning advice. For a lot of men, talking about their mental health is not something that will come easily or feel natural, so allowing them to speak at their own pace and in their own time is imperative. Avoid making assumptions and judgements, and react calmly to any information you may find upsetting or shocking. This may include someone telling you they have contemplated suicide or are having suicidal thoughts. Remember they are sharing deeply personal information and how you respond plays an important role in building trust.
Taking the time to find out what resources are out there will put you in a stronger position to be able to help someone if they reach out to you. A productive step in supporting your friend, colleague or loved one is to gather some information and undertake your own research, such as finding out about local support groups, different support methods and guidance on how to boost mood.
Once your friend, colleague or family member feels ready to seek help, let them know he has your support – whether that’s booking and attending doctor appointments or therapy sessions with him, being on the end of a phone when needed or just taking him out for coffee or a stroll in the park. It’s also important to acknowledge that he will need his privacy at certain times, for example, during calls with therapists or just space to process his thoughts and feelings.
By raising awareness of men’s mental health and amplifying conversations around the topic, we help to reduce the stigma that still unfortunately exists around men’s mental health. This November marks the return of Men’s Mental Health Month, so now is the perfect opportunity to get involved in charity fundraising campaigns such as Movember - and don’t worry if you can’t grow a moustache, you can always sponsor someone who can or take part in their Make a Move campaign.
Here in Dorset, we are lucky to have a number of resources and local counselling groups on our doorstep. These include:
Connection - A round-the-clock helpline for people of all ages, anywhere in Dorset, who are experiencing mental health problems and need support. Contact their 24/7 helpline on 0300 123 5440, or access a walk-in community front room in Bridport, Shaftsbury or Wareham. You can also visit the Retreat in Dorchester or Bournemouth.
Dorset Mind - a fantastic charity which has supported people in Dorset for over 70 years, providing 13 recovery and resilience support groups across the county. It helps people recognise the symptoms of poor mental health and supports them to develop new coping skills.
Dorset Mind Your Head is aimed at children and young adults to improve mental health, working with youngsters in schools and colleges, and in the wider community.
You can also use the LiveWell Finder to locate local mental health services and support groups near you.
We have helped thousands of men and women across Dorset live healthier, happier lives. Our team of expert wellbeing advisors and coaches will be with you every step of the way, providing tailored support and guidance on how to improve mental and general health, identify coping strategies and recommending other tools and local support resources.
If you are struggling with your own mental health, why not take our Every Mind Matters quiz which will ask five simple questions based around how you are feeling. Once you have provided answers, you’ll receive a personalised mental health action plan with some tips and guidance tailored to you.
If you are worried about a male colleague or employee, take a look at our Supporting Men article, which offers guidance on how to open up channels of communication. Employers may also like to consider our fantastic Workplace Wellbeing service. For more details on how to improve employee wellbeing, download our free Welcome Pack which features links to lots of useful free resources.
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