In honour of International Men’s Day (19th November 2022), we are so honoured to showcase a fantastic article written by the wonderful Millie Fuller.
This article ‘Tackles the Taboo Around the Blues’ and highlights the issues that some men may confront when accessing support for their mental health.
Please see Millie’s article below…
“This September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its report on the rate of suicides in England and Wales. The report found that in 2021, 3/4 of suicides were by men, registering 4,129 deaths. Furthermore, those between the ages of 50 to 54 years old were the age group most at risk.
This International Men’s Day, the aim is to tackle the topic of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) to help end stigma and break the taboo. Medical research and reports indicate that men are as likely to suffer from depression as women but are less likely to ask for help. According to the Mental Health Foundation, men make up only 34% of referrals for talking therapy on the NHS.
We can’t afford to stay silent on this topic with lives at risk; it’s time to talk.
How do Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder present in men?
To effectively tackle depression and S.A.D in men, there needs to be an awareness and understanding of the symptoms so that everyone can identify them and spot the warning signs in themselves, their friends, and their family members.
Depression isn’t just feeling sad. It is much more complex, persisting for weeks, months or years. It has a direct impact on someone’s life and their ability to function. According to the NHS, symptoms common in men are irritability, sudden bursts of anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking and aggression. Other general symptoms include low mood, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, worry or shame, lack of motivation or interest, indecisiveness and suicidal thoughts.
Physical symptoms include moving or speaking slowly, a changing appetite or weight, constipation, unexplained aches and pains, lack of energy, low libido, and disturbed sleep. Most noticeable will be a withdrawal socially, avoiding friends, family, social engagements, and hobbies they previously enjoyed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is sometimes known as the “blues” or “winter depression” because the symptoms increase in severity with the seasons. The combination of short days and longer nights in autumn and winter disrupts the body’s internal clock, increasing the sleep hormone melatonin and decreasing the mood neurotransmitter serotonin. These changes cause symptoms similar to depression.
What are the barriers to men asking for help?
The discussion around men’s mental health is still considered a taboo subject. Priory, a UK clinical patient centre, surveyed 1,000 men and found that 40% had never spoken to anyone about their mental health. Of those, 29% said they were “too embarrassed” to talk about it, whilst 20% said there was a “negative stigma”. The study also found that 40% of men said it would take thoughts of suicide or self-harm to compel them to see a doctor.
Mind’s 2019 report supports these findings. Their study of 2,000 men and women found that “traditional masculine values such as self-reliance and stoicism” caused men to feel that they should ‘get on with it’ rather than ask for help. Additional research, quoted in a report from Time to Change, stated that men were more likely than women to have negative attitudes towards mental health, seeing low periods as a “lack of self-discipline and willpower”.
In short, the most significant barrier to men asking for help was their fear of being judged by their peers, workplace, family, friends, and society as less of a man for needing support. These values, attitudes and ideas keep men silent and unwilling to report or share in times of need, contributing to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and shame, which ultimately can lead to thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
How can we overcome these barriers together?
Tackling the taboo of men’s mental health should be and needs to be a community effort that includes family, friends, the media, the medical community, and education. We all have a role in helping men to feel comfortable, safe, and supported, empowering them to recognise the signs in themselves and those around them.
In Mind’s 2019 report, men reported feeling that mental health services were not “male friendly or tailored to their needs” and that their opening times and location were practical barriers that prevented them from taking that step. Additionally, not knowing where to start with asking for help had risen by 3% in 2019 as a reason for not accessing services. Fundamentally, this requires changes to services and outreach within the medical community.
Intervention within education, the media and how we raise our sons are of value too. We can challenge the negative, traditionally masculine values to change them in our children before they become adults.
However, our most important tool when tackling the taboo is talking to each other. Feeling isolated can lead to and exacerbate depression. By talking, we can share healthy coping strategies, highlight mental health services, and speak about our experiences. We need men, as well as their family and friends, to understand that help is available.”
Are you looking for support?
Our aim at Sean’s Place is to ensure that each member feels safe, supported and empowered. We have created an environment that is tailored to men’s needs to ensure that we provide the best support possible to men in our local community.
If you are reading this and you feel that you would benefit from some further support from Sean’s Place, please click the button below to complete a referral form and we will contact you as soon as we can.
You do not have to face this alone. We are here for you.