A recent study by The Mental Health Foundation found that almost 30% of men do not seek any help for their mental health conditions, however almost 80% of suicides (in adults over the age of 15) in the UK are men. Whilst men and women suffer mental health problems with equal numbers, women are a lot more likely to open up to a loved one about their emotions or seek the help of a professional to deal with their thoughts, whilst men are a lot more likely to avoid the situation and keep quiet about their mental health.
But why do so many men have trouble opening up about their mental health?
Historically in the UK mental health has always been a taboo subject for both genders but men in particular have received more judgement for opening up about their emotions. From a young age, boys are encouraged not to cry and even family members and loved ones will throw in offhand comments about “manning up” or to “stop being a girl” in order to discourage crying without a second thought, whereas girls are more likely to be scooped up and given a quick cuddle when they’re upset. During school this is often is intensified with the most emotional boys being “bullied” or teased over opening up or being upset.
The UK has historically had a very “macho” culture when it comes to men – we like our beer, our sports and our DIY – and this masculine culture (with emotions and opening up often having a negative stigma) has encouraged generations of men to close up about their feelings. Research in the UK has found that 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering with a common health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, although some many men are incorrectly diagnosed as they present their symptoms differently to women.
When left untreated mental health rarely fixes itself, although many of us may feel better for a period of time – without treatment it is likely that our poor mental health will return and often worse than before when nothing is done about it. Those who don’t seek help for their mental health issues often find themselves seeking something to control or lessen their emotions – a vice or escape from reality. In the UK men are three times more likely to suffer with alcohol abuse than women, suggesting that the absence of seeking help for mental health could cause much deeper problems, as well as issues that can further worsen your mental health.
But why do so many men avoid mental health care – or even speaking to a friend or loved one about their issues?
Macho or Manly Culture
Historically as well as in the modern day, men have been projected as hunter gatherers or providers, and in films and television series “attractive” men are often portrayed as strong and silent as though they show no weakness. Consequently, in our current culture it is very rare that a “strong” man or men are shown to cry or display emotional weakness, encouraging many men to think that if they are to open up to their feelings, they might lose their “manly” exterior.
It is a common joke in the UK that men will never stop and ask for directions no matter how lost they get, well as women are more likely to seek the help of another when faced with similar positions – for some men asking for help with direction in life is similarly difficult. Men up and down the UK avoid seeing the GP about their physical health – recently Gillette ran a campaign during men’s health week to try and encourage more men to visit their GP for regular check-ups for their physical health – and if you’re avoiding the doctor for your physical health, it’s likely you’re avoiding seeking help for any mental health problems you might suffer too.
Fear of Judgement
In the UK men are at the centre of a world of banter – a world that doesn’t translate outside of the UK and that creates a culture that we are internationally famous for, our weird (and often insulting) sense of humour. Because after all – what is a better way to spend the night, than to make jokes about our loved ones with our loved ones? Bringing up your mental health issues with a loved one can seem hard enough, but having the “lads” find out you visited the doctor over your mental health can feel like the worst thing in the world. However, in recent years as an increasing number of men – including some of the UK’s most famous actors, sports stars and even business men have come forward to share their own experiences with mental health, the subject has become something that we joke about a little less and even the “manliest” of men look out for a little more.
If you’re suffering with your mental health and are worried about opening up to those close to you, online therapy is a discreet service that can provide therapy at a time that works for you from the comfort of where works for you. My Online Therapy is the UK’s first virtual therapy platform offering you same professional service, with fully qualified psychologists, that you would expect in any private clinic, but at a lower cost than traditional clinics and without the long waiting lists of the NHS. Signing up is simple and the app can be accessed from anywhere where you have an internet connect – your office, your sofa and even from a bench in your favourite beauty spot. Visit our website or sign up for our app to learn more about how online therapy works and what we could do to help you.