Just Man Up! Men’s Health Week – for all who identify as men
Our St Albans Project Officer, Matt Tarry, has written an insightful blog post for Men’s Health Week all about men and mental health.
Just man up! These are 3 words a lot of blokes reading this post have likely heard in their lifetimes.
I’m too embarrassed
There’s negative stigma around this type of thing
I don’t want to appear weak
These are just a few of the reasons identified by the Priory Group for why men don’t talk about their mental health. Having gone to an all-boys school myself, I can attest to not wanting to appear weak. Talking about your feelings growing up was unheard of! Luckily I had a supportive family, but this isn’t the case for everyone. In the research conducted by the Priory Group, almost a quarter of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable speaking to a health professional, the main reason being they thought it would be a waste of the GP’s time.
Suicide rates are very high amongst men, accounting for around three quarters of all suicides. In 2020, 4639 men took their own lives. Men aged 45 – 64 have the highest rate of suicide by age – 20 per 100,000 people. These are saddening statistics, but perhaps understandable considering our reservations when it comes to reaching out for help.
Some research conducted by National Mind found that 43% of men admit to regularly feeling worried or low. Common worries amongst men include work, financial and health pressures; do these ring a bell?
These common worries are very telling of the “societal pressures” and “gender roles” that have faced males. Men historically have been under pressure to provide for and protect their families as the breadwinner and might feel like a failure if they’re unable to do this. As we all know, times are changing for the better. Gender roles aren’t as cemented as they once were. It’s now more “acceptable” for men to engage in their more feminine side, I know a lot of you probably moisturise now!
I feel my generation is probably the first to grow up being able to express their issues when it comes to mental health. Personally, it is one of my aims to challenge stigmas when it comes to men’s mental health and make sure the generations to come grow up being able to talk about their feelings and express their anxieties. After all, it is suffering in silence which leads to the awful suicide statistics mentioned earlier.
As for now, perhaps Mind in Mid Herts can engage men in our services better by capitalising on gender stereotypes and introducing more “male friendly” activities. We already run a football group which although is aimed at everyone, obviously attracts a lot of men. An organisation called Men’s Sheds Association help to facilitate community spaces for men to build on their social interactions by sharing skills and knowledge. I think this is a great way to engage with men, giving them a safe and comfortable environment to feel a bit more vulnerable!
Us blokes need to learn to feel comfortable with communicating, which will come with time, especially as stigmas are now being challenged more than ever! But perhaps, it’s as simple as just getting a ping pong table!
I think what we can all do in the here and now is check in on our mates and start these conversations about men’s mental health. And with that will come true change…
Written by: Matt Tarry
Posted on: 13th June 2023