It would appear that we have begun to talk about mental health openly to reduce the stigma that has surrounded it for many years but in doing so, are at risk of forgetting the silent crisis that males in our society are having to deal with mental health issues ‘on their own’…but they don’t need to!
Stigma, shame and embarrassment can disable people from opening up and seeking help for their experiences. This is why for the men in our lives, mental health remains taboo, they [men] still believe it shows a sign of weakness brought on by societal gender ‘norms’ of men being tough, stoic and fearless and as a result if they are unable to continue with their ‘illusion’, then many men feel they are not a ‘man’.
There needs to be a shared effort to break down these walls of stigma with a willingness to talk openly about mental health and to include men’s mental health. Men simply don’t always spot or act on the warning signs and can be unwilling or even unable to seek out the help they need and deserve.
In order for us all to help the men in our lives we need to be able to spot the changes in behaviours such as; an increase in risk taking behaviours, addictions (substance misuse etc.), lack of motivation or enthusiasm, a change in diet and/or a change in routines. In any case always be aware that these can show as being singular or multiple behaviour indicators.
Some mental health statistics and facts (Safeline.org)
- 76% of suicides are committed by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 in the UK
- 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
- Men are a lot less likely to access psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of referrals being men, reflecting the suffering in silence
Ok, what can you do about it?
There has never been a greater time to ‘ride the crest of the wave’ and be accepted for help with your mental wellbeing. You can get better and that’s a fact but to begin with you need to be the one who recognises your immediate need. If you are struggling with poor mental health, then reaching out for help may seem like the biggest hurdle to get over but it can lead to better and improved mental health and an increase in your happiness and resilience. So why don’t you take that step by;
- Talking to someone you trust. This could be a close friend or family member, a trusted teacher, maybe even your doctor or a professional such as a psychotherapist or counsellor
- Ask yourself “why” you find it uncomfortable asking for help and are those the reasons that create the barriers in stopping you getting the support you need
- Find a support group locally and there are many around the country that are free and open to anyone and may even help you enlarge your social network
- Become aware of the tools that are available to help the way you fight poor mental health such as regular exercise, social time with friends or finding a new hobby to get stuck in to
- Read the stories of how other men have battled with poor mental health and what worked for them in their “campaign against living miserably”
- Getting involved in campaigns and activities that raise awareness of mental health such as Movember https://uk.movember.com/ or The Calm Zone https://www.thecalmzone.net/
If you know a mate who is suffering with their mental health or you suspect they are struggling with mental health problems then why don’t you ‘GROW A PAIR’ of ears, sit them down, listen and support them.
We can all go through times that are tough. It could be the breakdown of a relationship, losing a job, or feeling like a failure when good things are happening to other people. It doesn’t have to be one big thing – it can be lots of smaller things, and remember that everyone deals with things differently.
REMEMBER TO LOOK FOR CHANGES
- Unexpected mood changes – including suddenly being calm and happy after being very depressed
- Social withdrawal
- Change in sleeping and eating patterns
- Lack of energy
- Neglect of personal appearance
- Reckless and or risky behaviour
- Increased drug or alcohol abuse
- Anger or irritability (can be a replacement in young people for feelings of sadness)
- Talking about suicide or wanting to die– their statements may be vague or appear to be joking about it
- Giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye – to friends and family as if they won’t be seeing them again.
Don’t forget these changes can be on their own or be multiple changes clustered together.
WHAT DO I DO IF I NOTICE A CHANGE?
The best thing you can do is ask them and talk about it.
Just showing your support and giving someone space to communicate their feelings can be a huge release for them.
What should I say?
Not a lot really. Just ‘LISTEN’
Begin to explore how they feel. Just allow the conversation to develop naturally and allow them to talk
Please don’t pretend you know how they feel or try to convince them how lucky they are.
If they give any indicators that they are feeling hopeless or can’t see the point of going on, then this is the moment and the reason why you are here at this time. Ask the question and ask it clearly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” or maybe “Are you thinking about taking your own life?” Don’t be too quick to accept denials or jokes as responses.
Don’t judge or criticise. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol. But pointing this out won’t be particularly helpful to them.
Reassure them that these feelings won’t be around forever and that help is at hand.
You can’t ‘solve’ their problems so be aware that if someone is feeling suicidal, they need reassurance that they are valued, that they can talk freely about how they feel and that help is available.
What to do next ?
Feeling suicidal is really scary as is talking about it. If someone tells you they’re feeling suicidal, please make sure they are not left alone.
Ask them how they intended to ‘kill’ themselves and remove anything they could use to take their own life. Fill in a ‘suicide safety plan’ to help them in times of their crisis/need. https://www.barnsley.ac.uk/app/uploads/2019/01/Suicide-Safety-Plan-Booklet.pdf
Tell the person that you are really concerned for them and you’d like to get them medical help now. Sit with them and call 999 or take them to A&E and stay with them until they are seen by a member of the mental health team. Ask them to make contact with their GP.
Don’t keep it to yourself even if it’s only a hunch and share your concerns with others.
Don’t be afraid to involve family, friends, or colleagues but make sure this is kept confidential, appropriate and talk to them about how you’re feeling.
It can be difficult to hear the suicidal thoughts of a friend or loved one and they may be anxious not to frighten or upset you by telling you. Sometimes people find it easier to talk to a stranger, so encourage them to ring one of the helplines below. You can ring them yourself if you are worried about someone.
CALM – 0800 58 58 58
Helpline & web chat available 5pm to midnight every day
Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hours)
Maytree – 020 7263 7070
A sanctuary for the suicidal
MIND – 0300 123 3393
(Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm)
Papyrus – 0800 068 41 41
Prevention of Young Suicide
(Mon – Fri 10am – 5pm / 7pm – 10pm. Weekends 2pm – 5pm)
‘Help is at Hand’ (Public Health England) booklet available from the Health & Wellbeing Centre at Barnsley College.
Last updated: 20th July 2022