Men’s mental health is a topic that deserves our attention now more than ever. Men are finally starting to speak up about their mental health struggles, normalising that men are human too! Just last week Dele Alli, Everton Midfielder, shared his very personal struggles with sleeping pill addiction, and during an emotional interview with The Overlap podcast, Dele talked about the abuse he suffered as a child before being adopted at 12.
Other famous names to speak out about their mental health struggles include, Prince Harry who shared that he had EMDR to help process some of the traumas in his life, Rio Ferdinand, former professional footballer shared his experiences with grief and loss, Stormzy, the British rapper has been vocal about his struggles with depression, and Stephen Fry, the well known British Actor has been an influential speaker in the field of mental health since being open about his struggle with Bi-polar disorder. However, the absolution of stigma is still yet to occur, and many men still fear seeking help will compromise their masculinity and subject them to judgment. Consequently, countless men suffer silently, unaware of the services available to them and too embarrassed to ask. It becomes evident that we must confront the taboo associated with men’s mental health and encourage open discussions about therapy.
We spoke to our Psychotherapist Bruce Edhouse about men’s issues in therapy and he said “we need to get rid of the stigma around mental health for men because it’s a fallacy. It’s a hangover from previous generations. It’s an idea that’s not fit for purpose any more!“
What do the Stats Say?
Statistics paint a bleak picture of the state of men’s mental health. In 2021, approximately three-quarters of suicides in England and Wales were committed by men, resulting in 4,129 male deaths compared to 1,454 female deaths. These numbers emphasise the startling reality that men endure mental health struggles just as intensely as women. While depression itself does not differ based on gender, men often exhibit distinct symptoms such as irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression. Rather than seeking help and talking about their emotions, men may resort to alcohol and drug abuse as a means of escape. Unfortunately, this only perpetuates a negative cycle, further exacerbating their emotional turmoil.
The Unspoken Struggles of Teenage Boys
Mental health issues among teenage boys also deserves significant attention. The fear of judgment from peers often outweighs their willingness to reach out for support. Consequently, many boys remain undiagnosed for various mental health conditions. Teachers and adults may dismiss their struggles as “typical boy” behaviour or attribute them to a lack of effort. This dismissal can have severe consequences, as undiagnosed conditions can deeply impact an individual’s mental health and overall well-being.
Bruce spoke to us about the pressures of masculine development, he said:
“Men are expected to be strong today in a way that is drastically different from the way that even our parents and grandparents were expected to be strong – think of what you expect from the men in your life, and think about who in their life will have taught them (or not taught them) exactly how to live up to those expectations. Who were their role models? And who were the role models before that? While society still has outdated notions that men should be able to shoulder the burdens of life on their own and hide weakness at all costs, we will keep on seeing men suffer unnecessarily.”
Unfortunately, the lengthy waiting lists for NHS diagnoses can be detrimental to these young men’s lives, potentially robbing them of vital developmental years. In such cases, private counselling and psychotherapy may offer a quicker, more direct route to the help they need, but what teenage boy can afford private therapy and often parents are required to help but only where their teen is willing to let them.
The Importance of Breaking the Silence
Raising awareness and dismantling the stigma surrounding men’s mental health is paramount. Stereotypes perpetuate the misconception that women are the ‘emotional ones’ resulting in an under-representation of men’s struggles in public discourse. It is vital that we create a greater awareness so that men know they are not alone in their struggles. Open conversations about mental health, tailored specifically to men, must become the norm. We need to redefine masculinity and emphasise that seeking help is a sign of strength rather than weakness. By challenging these societal norms, we can empower men to step forward and seek the assistance they need.
Improving Accessible Support
While private counselling and psychotherapy offer expedited access to mental health services, it is crucial to acknowledge that these options may not be feasible or accessible for everyone. Public mental health services, such as the NHS, play a pivotal role in providing care to individuals regardless of their financial situation. Advocacy for improved public mental health services should focus on reducing waiting times, increasing funding, and enhancing overall accessibility. It is only through comprehensive, inclusive support systems that we can ensure all individuals have access to the help they need.
Working with Men in Therapy
Bruce has kindly shared some of his experiences of working with men in therapy, he was keen to share that therapy with men is as broad and diverse as therapy with women and no two clients are the same yet he stated “I’m going to allow myself one sweeping generalisation here! Be aware that a lot of men’s default position is to try to solve problems rather than sit with uncomfortable emotions, so keeping therapeutic goals in mind is important – and if it helps, I try to reframe the process of working through those emotions as the path towards a solution“.
By dismantling the stigma associated with therapy and fostering open conversations, we can empower men to break the silence and seek the support they deserve. The statistics are clear, and the consequences of inaction are dire. Together, we can create a world where men no longer feel burdened by societal expectations, but rather find solace and strength in their journey towards better mental health. It’s time to break the taboo and extend a compassionate hand to all those who need it.
In the words of our Leicester Psychotherapist Bruce Edhouse ” Being strong sometimes means knowing when to ask for help, and knowing that it’s not only fine to ask for that help – it’s daft not to“.