According to research, 40% of men have never talked to anyone about their mental health These figures are worrying as we are witnessing a gradual decline in the state of men’s mental health, which is backed up by the results of this year’s National Living Health Study in Ireland. This raises the question, why is this group silent on this critical health issue?
From my experience as a consulting psychologist and mental health professional, I recognize that men and women typically have different mental health conditions. Many men tend to externalize symptoms such as anger and frustration and may engage in more risky behaviors. Research has shown that men are more likely to cope with challenges by self-medicating. These behaviors are often not considered symptoms of a mental health condition, so family and friends may not understand that their loved one may need support.
Instead, females are more likely to exhibit some of the more typical symptoms of depression, such as crying, feeling sad and despairing, which are more obvious indicators of psychological distress. These symptoms alert others that females may need support and professional help.
In addition to the signs of distress that are undetectable to others, males themselves are often unaware or reluctant to seek help. Often, individuals are unable to recognize these signs on their own. Unfortunately, men can hold on to traditional gender roles that see expressing emotions and seeking professional help as signs of weakness. These outdated and traditional views come at a great personal cost to men.
As a society, we need to overcome gender-related barriers and stigmas so that men can seek support just as women do. Equipping family and friends with the knowledge to spot the early warning signs of mental health conditions and providing them with the tools to address their concerns in a sensitive way is an important first step in supporting men to seek help. It is also important that all parties know where to go for the ‘right’ professional support when needed. If unsure, we encourage you to contact your EAP for guidance.
These measures will help us to address some of the concerns highlighted in our recent NHS3.
- 8% increase in men in extreme distress since 2022
- 32% of men want to reduce their dependence on substances or behaviors (alcohol, drugs, gambling, internet) compared to 23% of women
- 48% of men admit they have been criticized for their substance or behavioral dependence
- 21% of men don’t know where to go for support
Tips for getting family and friends to support men’s mental health.
- Recognize the early warning signs that something may not be well.
- Don’t ignore the signs.
- Reach out and share your concerns.
- Give specific examples of things you have observed that cause you concern.
- Listen and give them your full attention.
- Don’t judge what they say to you.
- Ask them what they need from you.
- If they don’t want to talk to you, encourage them to talk to someone else.
- Find another person who will support you.
- Having a good doctor is essential because they are the gatekeeper to other services.
- Ask if there is someone who can accompany them to doctor’s appointments (a friend or family member).
- Monitor how they are doing over a period of time.
- Seek support for themselves.
- Consider contacting the EAP for guidance and resources on how to support the person.
- If you are concerned that someone may be at risk of self-harm, be sure to contact a doctor or EMS.