Three times as many men as women die by suicide and it is the biggest cause of death for men under 50. Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women but are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health concerns. Often they don’t even recognise them.
We live in a society that expects men to be strong and in control, making it difficult for men to reach out for support, instead turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Men are three times more likely than women to become dependent on alcohol or drugs.
It’s important that we have safe spaces where men can share their health concerns. In my own journey, a weekly men’s group was fundamental in helping me to turn my life around. I was an angry young man with physical and mental health problems. I was off sick from work and struggling with life. And like many men, anger was an emotion that was both familiar and something I found easy to access and express.
But what was behind the anger?
In my men’s group one day, the facilitator challenged me on my anger. He asked me to close my eyes and said that he would say things that would make me angry but that I should not react, just stay with the emotions. He began to speak and I found the anger building, my knuckles clenched and my jaw tightened. He continued and I began to shake. After a few minutes (and it may have been much less than that) I started to cry and it wasn’t just a few tears, it was uncontrollable as the years of sadness that I’d been hiding behind my anger came out.
This couldn’t have happened had there been women present for two good reasons. Number one, and the main reason, is that I wouldn’t have let my guard down in front of females. And number two is safety. The facilitator probably wouldn’t have tried this just in case I lashed out. So this is one example but there are many subjects that men need a safe space to talk in.
Reach out if you are worried about your mental health. Connect with friends and talk about your concerns. Don’t let it build up until it becomes unmanageable. There is help out there.
And if you are worried about someone else
- Let them know you are there for them and keep in touch, listen without judgement.
- Encourage them to get help from their GP or find a men’s group in your area
- Learn more about the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and how to support someone in distress by taking a mental health first aid course.
- Check out Men’s Health Forum for more information on men’s health