Men’s Health Week is an international event that runs each year to focus on issues facing men’s health that finishes on Father’s Day. This year’s theme is ‘Take Action on Covid-19’ with a focus on three key areas; take action to avoid spreading the virus, take action to get the best out of lockdown and the ‘new normal’ and take action to beat ‘underlying conditions’.
We believe positive mental health and emotional wellbeing underpins all of these areas and in fact is critical as we all deal with the complete disruption to everyday life and the impact of being in and coming out of lockdown.
The effects of the coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on the lives of everybody. Recently published data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows us that in April, more than 4 in 5 (84.2%) of people in the UK were worried about the effect that coronavirus was having on their life; with over half (53.1%) saying it had affected their wellbeing and nearly half (46.9%) reporting higher levels of anxiety.
The Men’s Health Forum, June 2016, (updated September 2017) show the following statistics:
- Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (Reference: ONS)
- 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
- Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women – Health and Social Care Information Centre)
- Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men.
In the UK, 12 men take their own lives everyday and after years of falling, the suicide rate has increased again as the economy has struggled. These statistics along with the increasing pressures men are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic are incredibly concerning.
Part of the stigma that still exists about mental health for men, is that men have greater difficulty talking about their feelings and their struggles than women do. There are still many pressures on men on a daily basis expecting them to ‘man up’ or ‘be a man about it’. These terms can be unhealthy and damaging and make it harder for men to feel they can be open about their feelings or admit when things are not okay. We need to stop using these phrases and making men feel that they need to compartmentalise how they feel or that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Here are simple starting points that may help if you feel this way or have a man in your life that might be struggling with their mental health.
- Talking to someone you trust, a close friend or family member is a great start. You will be surprised at how much better sharing the load will make you feel.
- Think about why you find it uncomfortable asking for help and whether those reasons are actually stopping you from getting the support you need.
- Read and research about mental health. There are many resources available online. Reading the stories of others will help you see how others have got help and that you are not alone.
- Taking time for you is incredibly important. Look for things that make you feel better and try to incorporate them into your daily routine – it could be anything from regular exercise to art or spending time with friends.
- There are many online resources that can point you in the best direction for you to seek further help.
- Speak to your GP. They will be able to offer professional support and guidance.
- There are many professional variants of talking therapies available. Do some research online and see what’s right for you.
The focus on men’s mental and physical health is critical. We need to show encouragement to all the men in our lives – fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, sons, nephews and friends – that it’s essential to take responsibility for their health. And that they don’t have to do it alone. We all play a part in the wellbeing of the men in our life and helping them to find the best way for them to manage that as part of their daily lives is vital.
Men’s Mental Health (2017). https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health