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"The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.” - Nicole Lyons
Men's mental health is a silent epidemic, and before we truly submerge ourselves in how to move forward from this crisis point, it’s important to educate ourselves with the facts:
- There is a significant gender gap in suicide rates in the UK. While women have higher attempted suicide rates, three in four suicides (76 percent) are by men.
- Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 35.
- Men are more than three times more likely than women to become dependent on alcohol as a result of mental illness.
- 12.5 percent of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders.
- Men are significantly less likely to access psychological therapies, with only 36 percent of referrals to IAPT being for men.
- 73 percent of adult missing persons’ cases are male.
- 87 percent of rough sleepers are male.
Source: Men's Health Forum, June 2016, September 2017
Both men and women suffer the same mental disorders; however, the symptoms can present distinctively different between gender, as well as the general unwillingness to actively portray such emotions. Life, it then appears, becomes somewhat of a masquerade. But the impacts of such mental disorder are no different whether you have a Y chromosome in your DNA or not. The male mind is moulded by society, it is taught that crying is a sign of weakness, that in times of suffering one must simply “man up,” that to remain strong and silent can be seen as admirable, to “show no weakness,” to meet the bravado of the heroes portrayed in our media is a positive—but it is such restrictions that create the terrifying statistics on male suicide for our country.
It appears that because of this societal mould, men have simply become a slave to their mind and are eternally imprisoned with these thoughts penetrating persistently. The same way that women are forced to perform in a certain way to adapt to societal norms, men are also restricted in their expression of character and emotion. The male body is often associated with masculinity and strength, whereas the female body is typically associated with femininity and weakness. While the latter initially presents itself as the most discriminatory, the prior associations force a performative form of living, also. Societal norms deprive men of basic human rights - with the inability to speak up. Whilst women are more likely to seek medical attention for their mental health disorders, men are generally more inclined to turn to forms of self medication - an ultimately corruptive form of 'treatment'.
The male mind is victim to substantial prejudice and stereotypes and while the issue of men’s mental health remains to be spoken about euphemistically, true change will never be implemented. It’s time to talk. It’s time to eradicate this rigid architecture that surrounds the term masculinity and allow for greater freedom so that help can be sought, provided and accepted.
Mental ill-health is an illness, not an attitude. The brain remains a brain no matter how much money and success you surround it with—anybody can fall victim to mental illness and there doesn't have to be a reason. There is no strength or weakness when it comes to the way in which our body or mind functions, but there is strength in fighting it. Silence does not represent strength. There is strength in talking. There is strength in seeking help. By talking about mental illness in men, we allow for a society where people no longer feel isolated, because there's the crucial understanding that you are not alone and you are not to blame. We normalise it. We accept it. We create a basis for change. We create a foundation for recovery.
Below is a video made by Time to Change to highlight the need to eradicate the stigma surrounding men's mental health.
Mental Health numbers you can call if you're struggling or find yourself in crisis:
- Samaritans - 116 123
- CALM - 0800 58 58 58
- YoungMinds - 0800 018 2138
- ChildLine - 0800 1111
- No Panic - 0800 138 8889
- SANE - 0300 304 7000
- Get Connected - 0808 808 4994