Why It Is Vital We Talk About Men’s Mental Wellness
In the same week as International Men’s Day, and the same month as Movember, it seems to be common knowledge that male suicide is one of the leading causes of death in working aged men (aged between 25-54 years old). It is also no secret that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women. With this in mind, it is a vital time to raise awareness and tackle the issue of men’s health and men’s mental wellness.
Consider the stigma around men and mental health, and how important it is to change our perspectives, whilst encouraging those in need to seek advice or help. There are factors which prevent men from dealing with their inner emotional situations that should not be ignored. Irrespective of gender, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year, and the stigma around them is far greater than with physical illnesses. Breaking through this barrier of judgement is far harder for men that it is for women due to the values that have been present in our societies for centuries.
Patriarchal values define men as the strong gender, and women as the weaker one. Historically, the natural status quo was that women were emotionally unstable, while men had to be tougher in the role of hunter-gatherer and provider. We are all familiar with phrases like “man up”, which reinforce this idea that men must be strong, and in order to do that, avoid talking about how they are feeling. When we raise boys to repress emotional turmoil and pain, we are condemning generations of men to a limited emotional life. This may not only be dangerous for themselves, but also others. Feelings of sadness or anxiety have to manifest in some way, and if not in healthy conversation this could result in actions of anger, and worryingly frequently, harmful coping methods such as substance abuse.
It goes without saying there are factors in your life, such as diet and sleep, that can make a difference to your wellness on a day-to-day basis. It is easy however to underestimate how much they can affect your emotional state, as well as your physical health. Eating well, staying hydrated and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, can also help balance your emotional wellness. Foods that boost brain function include essential fatty acids, such as fish, poultry, nuts, avocados and dairy products. What’s more, protein (which contains amino acids) helps to control your blood sugar levels in order to regulate your feelings and thoughts. It is worth avoiding trans fats or foods with partially hydrogenated oils, such as shop-bought cakes, as these can negatively impact your mood.
In the UK, men are only around half as likely as women to access psychological therapies. With men less likely to seek help from others, it is worth highlighting the number of fantastic support services available if you feel like, for whatever reason, you aren’t coping. If calling your GP seems like too difficult a task, then contacting these charities can definitely help you on a road to better mental wellbeing:
- CALM: The Campaign Against Living Miserably is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day.
- Mind: A top UK mental health charity that is there to listen, give support and advice, and fight your corner.
- SANE: A leading UK mental health charity improving quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness – included family, friends and carers.
No one should have to face any problem alone, especially a mental health problem. The solutions are never as far away as they feel, so check in on the men you care about: your friends, your family, colleagues, and encourage openness during conversations about mental wellness. It is incredibly brave to open up when you speak out for yourself. The feeling of support and relief when you begin to share your feelings can truly be a turning point to see a change in your mental wellness. So start today, and embrace a happier tomorrow.