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  • Writer's pictureLee Reavill

‘Man Up’: Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health

It’s not uncommon to feel like you aren’t ‘man enough’, that you need to ‘man up’ or that you should be more ‘masculine’. Well, not only are these stereotypes harmful, they’re all completely untrue. What is true though is that men find it a lot more difficult to talk about their mental health, and to ultimately seek help.


How do we not only address this, how do we raise awareness to prevent it? It all starts with discussion, conversation and education about men’s mental health.


Avoiding Stigma


The most common factor in preventing men talking about their mental health is stigma. The appearance of being ‘weak’ or that real men don’t cry. This can lead to serious mental ill health such as anxiety and depression. It’s also known that men are more likely to turn to substance abuse to cope with their mental health.


Societal pressures and toxic masculinity are to be blamed when it comes to stereotyping men’s mental health. ‘Lad’ culture, ‘boys will be boys’ and other gender stereotypes are ingrained into society.


It’s not unusual for men to feel stressed, upset, overwhelmed. The fact is the majority of them hide it. They may feel so anxious that they throw up, take anti-anxiety medication, cancel plans, turn to substance abuse, have suicidal thoughts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 75% of deaths by suicide are males. They are also three times more likely to die by suicide than women.


It’s so harmful to tell boys or men to not talk about their feelings or to not show their emotions. Avoid stereotypical language and ultimately make men aware that there’s support out there.


Mind released a report on Men’s mental health compared from 2009 to 2019. It reports that 2 in 5 men admit to feeling low or worried, an increase since 2009. The number of men feeling suicidal thoughts has doubled since then too.


What Can Men Do For Their Mental Health?


The answer doesn’t just lie with men. It lies with all of us, we all have a duty of care to break down barriers and to ensure the men in our lives know that it’s okay to not feel yourself.


Men are less likely to seek help for their mental health. Just 36% of all NHS referrals for psychological therapies are for men. So what can we do for men’s mental health awareness?


Exercise


Studies have shown that exercise can improve mental health due to better sleep, the release of endorphins to make us feel happier and reducing our stress levels. Whether it’s a walk, running or going to the gym, physical activity is a natural way of improving our mental health.


Why not take on a challenge? Movember has many projects and fundraising events to get involved in to support men’s mental health.


Be Sociable


It can be really hard to get outside sometimes when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Try reaching out to see people one on one or in smaller groups. Don’t rely on social media or texting, we need to be social to feel better. Being with loved ones can definitely help.


Reach Out


If a mate doesn’t quite seem themselves, if they’ve been quiet, irritable, tired or just acting out of character, reach out. Meet up with them in person, go for a walk or a coffee or to the gym together. Just show up and show them that you care, it’s a stigma that men find it hard to talk to each other and that women will turn to each other to discuss issues and problems. It’s not a weakness to talk about how you’re feeling and it can take just one person to relate or to understand to make you feel like you’re not alone.


It’s a common misconception that men can just get on with things. That they don’t feel upset, stressed or anxious. Watch this great Ted Talk by Henry Nelson Case’s Ted on why men need to talk about their mental health.




My Own Mental Health


On a personal level, it took me many years to admit to myself that I have anxiety. It took a little longer to do something about it. Even after many years of doctor’s appointments, medication, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) I started to understand and come to peace with my anxiety. I still battle daily and have days where I physically can’t function due to the weight on my chest.


I have discovered things that make it better and that make it more bearable. If you had told me a few years ago that the number one thing would be exercise I would have laughed. It does though, I completed a training program, started running and completed a half marathon in a year. The clarity that exercise provides is like nothing else.


Sitting at a desk all day doesn’t help anxiety. Switching your mind off and allowing your body to be mobile gives your mind a rest. I’m becoming better at being open about my own mental health, because we’ll only break stigma if more of us are ambassadors. Not everyone will understand but surrounding yourself with those that do is good for you. I promise.


Talk to Muted


Our aim at Muted is to generate awareness about the importance of men’s mental health. We’ve delivered hundreds of workshops to businesses across the Midlands. Normalising mental health in the workplace is our number one priority.


Why not drop us a message and say hey. We’re a friendly group of people who’ve had our own experiences and trials with mental health. You’re not alone.


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