With World Mental Health Day and the Conference on Women’s Mental Health on the 9th of October approaching, UNHS already wants to look forward to the next year Conference, this time dedicated to mental health issues specific to men.
While it is true that women are more likely to report and suffer from a wide range of mental health issues, many of the serious problems that men suffer from are often undiagnosed and undiscussed. As a result of this stigmatization surrounding men’s mental health, men are unable to receive the help that they need. Probably the most striking statistic is that over 75 % of the 6,507 suicides in Great Britain were men. Suicide represents the largest cause of death for men under 50 and only a small minority of those who took their lives was engaged with mental health services beforehand. This can be at least partly explained by the persisting culture of silence around men’s mental health which is reinforced by social norms and gender stereotypes.
Men are much less likely to consult a therapist or even talk about their psychological problems with their family which makes it difficult to create necessary support systems and can lead to problems worsening over time. Andrew Reeves, the Governor of British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has stated “Traditionally, more women than men have sought counselling, and this is in itself not a surprise. The concept of talking about feelings and exploring emotional and psychological difficulties have, for many years, been seen as a ‘female’ rather than ‘male’ trait.” Therefore, the issue is reinforced by gender socialisation and stereotypes traditionally attributing traits like strength, stoicism and lack of emotional openness to men.
Boys get the message at a young age: don't show your feelings. Don't rely on anyone. Moreover, some ‘normal’ male behaviours (e.g. drinking too much alcohol, being physically aggressive, ‘soldering on’ when under emotional stress) can be indicators of mental health problems but these can be unrecognised by both professionals and men themselves. Rigid and narrow gender roles and stereotypes can be harmful, especially in situations where serious help is necessary.
Lastly, gender-specific issues can be analysed not only from the ‘patient-side’ of healthcare but the mental health support side as well. According to BACP, it might be surprising that male practising counsellors and psychotherapists make up only 20% of their membership. It becomes clear that a deeper understanding of gender social setting will be largely beneficial to tackling and understanding the most serious mental health problems.
We look forward to exploring these topics and many more issues related to man’s mental health next year and meanwhile, we would like to invite you once again to Glasgow on the 9th of October. You can register for free here.