Rehab 4 Addiction

In the UK alone, as many as one in eight men have a mental health disorder including common complaints such as depression, anxiety and panic disorder [1].

Compared to women in the same population, men are:

  • Three times more likely to complete suicide, with men aged 40-49 years old having the highest suicide rates in the UK [2]
  • More likely to be involuntarily detained or sectioned for treatment [1]
  • Report lower levels of life satisfaction [3]
  • Three times more likely to develop alcohol or drug dependence [2]
  • Much more likely to make up the prison and homeless populations, both of which are overrepresented in mental health statistics [2]

Despite these statistics, men are still far less likely to access therapy for their mental health than women with only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies being for men [4].

This article will explore why these differences in mental health between men and women persist and signpost you to organisations where you might be able to get some help.

Why Men Don’t Talk About Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, both for men and women, society and its expectations have a lot to answer for. In our society, traditional gender norms dictate that men are the leaders and breadwinners, strong, dominant.

Whilst these can be positive traits, they sometimes don’t leave much room for men to express when they feel vulnerable and ask for support.

Unable to reach out, men have a tendency to instead turn to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. Tellingly, a large study showed that men strongly identified as ‘self-reliant’ had a 34% greater chance of reporting suicidal thoughts compared to those who didn’t see themselves in that way [5].

Men and Depression

Statistics show that men are less likely to have a diagnosis of depression than women [3]. However, statistics may not be telling the whole story as there is the suggestion that depression presents differently in men than women with symptoms like irritability, risk-taking, sudden anger, escapist behaviour and aggression being more common in ‘male depressive syndrome’ [7].

These findings are relatively new so may not yet be ingrained in the tools used by doctors to diagnose depression. As such, more classical symptoms of depression like being sad, lacking appetite and worry which may be more prevalent in women, maybe less valid when diagnosing men.

Work in this area continues to progress as the medical profession’s understanding of mental health improves over time.

Men and Suicide

As mentioned, men are at a greater risk of suicide than women, both attempted and completed and the risk is even greater in men from ethnic minority backgrounds, the LGBT community, war veterans and those on lower incomes.

A study carried out by The Samaritans charity [8] exploring factors that might explain why this disparity exists, particularly in the 40-49 age bracket which has the highest suicide rate.

The findings highlighted that middle age is often a time when decisions made earlier in life show themselves and any major changes to these decisions are more likely to come at a greater cost, leading to a feeling of being trapped by those choices.

Less able to express feelings about this and get appropriate help can eventually lead to serious mental ill-health and potentially suicide. This could be compounded by middle-aged men still feeling they need to adopt the same ‘still upper lip’ attitude that the generation above them has.

Turning to reasons why unemployed and lower-income men are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than their wealthier counterparts [7], the authors of the report suggested that beyond job loss itself, there was the perception of the workforce being ‘feminised’ as the economy becomes more service-orientated.

It could be that this, combined with society’s expectations that has lead to some men feeling they have lost their sense of purpose, identity and pride in the world of work.

What Should I do if I’m Worried About My Mental Health?

If you are worried that you are developing a mental health disorder, the best thing you can do is talk to your GP. Whilst this may be a daunting task at first, they are likely to point you in the best direction to start feeling better and just the act of talking alone can help you feel better.

Please dial 999 or go to A&E in the first instance if you feel in distress, at breaking point or are considering ending your life. This will give you access to specialised crisis resolution teams who will give you the help you deserve.

In addition to the above, there are a number of simple yet practical steps such as those provided by The Mental Health Foundation [8] that you can take to improve your mental health today. Trying just one of these steps can start you off on the road to mental wellbeing.

What Should I do if I’m Worried About Someone’s Mental Health?

If you are concerned about someone you know, let them know that you are there to listen to them non judgmentally, even if it’s just a text message.

It might also be a good idea to help signpost them to local support groups, maybe ones specifically for men if they would like. Contact details of these groups can be found online although this list by mental health charity, Mind, might be a good place to start [9].

If you think that someone you know is in severe distress with the potential to harm themselves, ensure you don’t leave them alone and remove anything they could use to end their lives. Tell them that you would like them to get help and call their GP, 999 or accompany them to A&E.

Finally, you can’t help others if you aren’t looking out for yourself, especially as looking after someone else can be tough. Again, help is out there [10].

References

1. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20180328130852tf_/http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf/

2. https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health

3. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/bulletins/measuringnationalwellbeing/october2016toseptember2017

4. https://files.digital.nhs.uk/99/3916C8/ment-heal-act-stat-eng-2019-20-summ-rep%20v1.1.pdf

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28025691/

6.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24953479/

7. https://media.samaritans.org/documents/Samaritans_MenSuicideSociety_ResearchReport2012.pdf

8. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-mental-health

9. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/peer-support-directory/

10. https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/worried-about-someone/

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.