This Sunday (13th June 2021) marked the start of ‘Men’s Health Week’. Like any other awareness week, this is to raise awareness and open up conversations about men’s health.
I think it’s especially important that we highlight men’s mental health & wellbeing.
From a young age, I was different to most of the other kids. Although I’m low on the autistic spectrum, my autism was very noticeable and all throughout my life I have struggled with this alongside my other diagnosis’. Growing up, it was extremely noticeable how none of the other males spoke about mental health or their struggles, but the ladies were more open and spoke quite freely without much judgement from other females. Then when I was in and out of the adolescent psychiatric units, 95% of those were females.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s so many different things that effect female’s mental health & wellbeing than a man’s but what is still apparent even to this day is the stigma and male toxicity around men speaking about their mental health/mental illness and seeking help. It’s seen as ‘making you less of a man’ if you do and the ‘Man Up’ culture means so many men are suffering in silence and unfortunately, this leads so suicides.
Suicide is the biggest cause of death amongst men under the age of 50. The latest UK suicide figures show that on average just under 6,000 people take their own lives every year. Three-quarters of them are men.
Now this figure has increased year-on-year and still, it’s not something which is spoken about and is still a ‘taboo’ subject.
Why so many men?
Research shows how complex the issue is. In the report, men talk about relationships breaking down, separation from children, job loss, addiction, lack of close friendships, loneliness and being unable to open up.
Deprivation is a major factor in male suicide, increasing the odds of taking your life by 10 times, compared with the suicide risk of more affluent men.
Something called the ‘gold standard’ of masculinity puts pressure on men. It’s a persuasive little voice that whispers, ‘You’ve failed’ – unless you have gone out and secured that job, that house, that car, that woman, those children and that sunny family life.
There are other signs that might give us a better picture of the state of men’s mental health:
Three times as many men as women die by suicide
Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women according to the Government’s national wellbeing survey
Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men
Nearly three-quarters of adults who go missing are men
87% of rough sleepers are men
Men are nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use
Men are more likely to be compulsorily detained (or ‘sectioned’) for treatment than women
Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime (1.5 more likely than women
Men make up the vast majority of the prison population. There are high rates of mental health problems and increasing rates of self-harm in prisons
From the age of 13 when I started my work, I knew that being a man that struggles with mental illnesses and body image, it is so important that I talk openly about how I feel, in the hope that other men will do the same. I took numerous attempts at my life because I felt stuck in a bubble and a failure because I wasn’t what a typical man should be, and I felt no sense of worth.
- Have Depression
- Have Anxiety
- Feel Suicidal
- Have Problems With Self Image
- Have Eating Disorders
It’s crucial that as a society, we stamp out this ‘Man Up’ culture and male toxicity. It is taking lives and it needs to stop.
Speaking up, crying and seeking help, whatever it may be, does not make you any less of a man and it is not at all weak!
I cry, I breakdown, I have problems with eating and self-image, I have anxiety and I’m not ashamed and I will not let anybody tell me I’m weak or push me to a point of feeling suicidal.
I’m human and these are things than no matter who you are, it can affect anyone.
Lads, don’t suffer in silence!
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.