Don’t ignore men’s mental health

17th April 2020 by Jane Higgins


In this article

  • Men’s Mental Health Facts

  • UK statistics on male suicide

  • The stigma around men’s mental health.

  • What are the common causes?

  • How to spot the warning signs of poor mental health and depression

  • How we can make simple changes to improve men’s mental health?

  • Mental Health Courses

  • Men’s mental health charities and support

  • In conclusion


It is time we start supporting men’s mental health more. In 2018, the UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000. This figure is much lower than for women where the UK rate is 5.4 deaths per 100,000.

Mental health issues can affect any of us regardless of age, sex or lifestyle and none of us are immune to the risk of developing a mental health condition at some time in our lives. We are all vulnerable to experiencing depression and anxiety and there should not be any shame in admitting it and getting help when necessary.

In the UK, a quarter of the population will experience some type of mental health problem each year. In England alone one in six people report a common mental health issue each week. Depression and anxiety are the most common, but other issues may be linked to phobia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders and mental illness such as personality disorders and psychotic conditions which can develop over time.

Men’s Mental Health Facts

In truth the number of mental health conditions is likely to be far higher than statistics suggest. This is because mental health issues are often undiagnosed in men with many men suffering in silence rather than seeking out help. According to mental health charities, men’s mental health is in a silent crisis; where common warning signs are often missed and nobody realises there is a problem until it is too late.

In fact men’s mental health can be a killer and men’s mental health statistics make for some grim reading.

UK statistics on male suicide


Male suicide is the biggest cause of death for men aged under 35. And male suicides make up 75% of all reported suicides each year according to the office of National Statistics. A percentage that has not changed since the 1990s. Scotland is particularly at risk with reported suicides set at 16.1 deaths per 100000.

Although suicide is the biggest cause of death for men aged under 35, males aged between 45 to 49 have the highest age specific rate of suicide at 27.1 deaths per 100,000.

This is not this age group’s biggest risk to health because there are other health conditions that can affect the older age group, whereas for the under 35 age group it is the biggest killer.

However the message is very clear. Men’s mental health is leading to suicide in a way that is far in excess of the risk for women.


The stigma around men’s mental health.


The stigma around mental health for men mainly comes down to social conditioning. Many men feel there is a stigma attached to reporting mental health issues and there can be a wide range of reasons why men feel that they cannot talk about their feelings or visit a doctor for help.

Men are often bought up with unrealistic expectations that they have to be strong and in control. When things go wrong in life as they often do, negative feelings can spiral out of control and they have no way of coping with these new feelings.

Many men report that they do not want to waste the doctor’s time, they struggle with admitting they need help, they are embarrassed or ashamed about their feelings. Others feel that they have got it, “all under control” and they do not want to admit that they need support.

Men rarely talk about their feelings in the same way as women. Many men do not have an outlet to chat with friends away from general topics and banter and many feel that if they did admit to feeling anxious or depressed to their friends, they would be ridiculed. Real men don’t cry is a common expression that sadly many men still believe.

Although some men may talk about their mental health with a partner, in most cases any mental health difficulties are hidden away and brushed under the carpet from the people closest to them. For men this is a difficult conversation to have and sadly many women can fail to pick up on underlying clues.

In addition if there are financial difficulties and stress many men feel that they have to shoulder the burden. Keeping a mental health issue secret, leads to feelings becoming overwhelming and if this is not managed with support, this isolation often leads to suicide.

According to mental health statistics reported by the Priory clinic, 40% of men will not talk to anyone about mental health, leaving them feeling vulnerable and isolated.


What are the common causes?


Worries about things such as money, financial hardships and the difficulties of the benefit system and the difficulty in coping can all lead to poor mental health. Men also make up the majority of the prison population and prison officers are noticing a huge rise in self harm.

The Samaritans have identified six key themes in the rise of suicides in the middle aged group of men.

  • Male personality traits can interact with factors such as deprivation, unemployment, social disconnection and triggering events, such as relationship breakdown or job loss, to increase the risk of suicide.

  • Macho behaviour. Men often respond to stress by taking risks, like misusing alcohol and drugs.

  • Relationship breakdowns – marriage breakdown is more likely to lead men to suicide than it is for women.

  • Mid life crisis. Middle aged men are currently experiencing more mental health problems and unhappiness compared to younger and older people.

  • Inability and disinclination to speak about emotions. Men are much less likely than women to have a positive view of counselling or therapy, and will only tend access these when they are at crisis point.

  • Socio-economic factors – unemployed people are 2-3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in work. The suicide rate increases during times of economic recession.

According to statistics from the Samaritans, men living in a deprived area are 10 times more likely to die from suicide, than men who live in more affluent areas.


How to spot the warning signs of poor mental health and depression

A mental health issue cannot be complete internalised or hidden. If you are worried about your own mental health or that of a man close to you or an employee or work colleague there are warning signs that should alert you to a potential problem.


In most cases, men will experience a range of these behaviour changes.

This check list is not a diagnosis of a mental health issue but it does show you when concerns should be raised. Obviously you might not know the answers to some of these questions if you are working with a man in a professional capacity.

  • Lack of interest in sex. This is a common effect of low mental health.

  • Emotional outbursts. Sudden mood changes, anger, extreme distress irritability, can all flag up concerns about mental health

  • Persistent depression and sadness. If you notice a lack of motivation and a general low mood that persists , it could be a sign of depression

  • Changes to sleep patterns. Lack of sleep at night combined with feeling tired and irritable the next morning is a classic sign of depression. If you notice that somebody is not performing well in the morning, there could be an underlying problem.

  • Low appetite and disinterest in food.

  • Changes to normal hygiene and personal grooming levels. If a man is usually smartly dressed yet is now turning up to work unshaved and in unclean clothes it could be sign he is letting himself go because of depression.

  • Drinking too much or taking drugs in an effort to escape from reality. Turning up to work with a hangover again is a sign that things may have got out of control.

  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn and shunning social activities and interests that the person once enjoyed. Knowing the people you work with will give you the insight that there may be mental health issues going on.

  • Increase in physical ailments such as flu, gastric problems and headaches. Psychosomatic ailments are a classic sign that a person is depressed.

  • Forgetful or spaced out behaviour. If a man is dealing with inner turmoil, this may result in changes to punctuality and ordinary behaviour, leading to uncharacteristic errors and mistakes.


Mental Health Awareness

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How we can make simple changes to improve men’s mental health?

It is normal to sometimes struggle with mental health so having a conversation that explains that everyone suffers from this occasionally and there is no shame or blame attached may help open up the conversation. Explain how bottling up feelings and emotions can only lead to a worsening of the problem.

Be understanding and non judgemental. Take time to listen and focus on what the man is telling you. Many men struggle with expressing themselves emotionally and it can be frustrating, but if you can get a man to actually speak about their feelings, it is a step in the right direction.

Getting out in nature can help. Exercise and the great outdoors can boost mood and improve self esteem simply by making the person feel better. Walking is also a good place to chat and to open up about feelings.

A change of scene and routine can improve mood. A time spent away from the usual routine can help clear the head and give a fresh perspective. If you are an employer, advising some time off may help.

Think of some novel ideas that are fun and enjoyable. A trip out to a new place, a visit to a cinema or a music or sports event such as a football match or gig by a favourite band, can lift mood and make life more bearable.

Noting a potential mental health issue and taking steps early is a good way to avert a potential problem. Sadly many men will not open up and say anything is wrong until they are at crisis point. Even then, many will be in denial.