“Man up!” – this is a phrase that I heard all too often from a friend I’d previously believed I could trust with my innermost concerns. I was made to feel ashamed about my emotions, and to feel inadequate in regards to my so-called “masculinity”.
Fortunately, friends and family managed to successfully convince me to seek help, in spite of these powerful words and their effect on how I viewed my own mental illness. But others aren’t so lucky. This is where several mental health charities have stepped in.
Throughout history men have felt pressured into adopting traditionally masculine characteristics; they are expected by society to be confident, strong, and unemotional, often at the expense of personal expression and, in some cases, their own mental wellbeing. This insistence on adopting bold masculine traits has also created an unnecessary and harmful stumbling block for many men who might benefit from seeking treatment for issues of mental health. This is because, generally speaking, seeking treatment is considered by many of these individuals to be synonymous with defeat.
Although the stigma associated with depression and other mental illnesses is not reserved exclusively for men, it is arguably more prevalent in males than in females. This is in part due to the difference in the expectations placed upon both men and women. Studies have shown in fact that men are less likely to get diagnosed when suffering from depression than women, the expectations placed on men to be in control of their emotions being a contributory factor in causing this divide between the sexes.
Other factors believed to be responsible for this disparity are socio-economic reasons such as unemployment, relationship breakdowns, and the challenges of middle age. These factors are more likely to lead men to suicide than women, according to research by the charity Samaritans.
The above information, though startling enough, becomes incredibly alarming when one observes the difference in the number of men and women who have died from suicide in recent years. In 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 4590 men in the UK took their own life. This is a significantly higher figure than that which was recorded for women in the same year (1391).
It is safe to assume that the difference can once again be attributed in part due to gender, or more specifically the differences between how both men and women react to issues concerning mental health. Whereas women are more likely to be treated for depression men instead are at a higher risk of masking their problems with the abuse of alcohol or drugs as a response to their illness.
This is something that mental health charities have observed, and are now working to change. Charities like C.A.L.M, and Mind are actively working to dispel the myths associated with depression, offering specific information tailored towards both men and their partners. This information includes details on how to cope, as well as how also to spot the signs of depression in loved ones. They are joined in this mission by England’s biggest programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, Time-To-Change.
C.A.L.M (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) is an organization dedicated solely to this purpose. It aims to get young men talking about their problems, offering a helpline for them to call in order to discuss their issues with others. C.A.L.M also has a website and a free publication supplying advice, and features on other topics relating to men. These topics include divorce, financial stress, and homelessness.
As well as this, Samaritans have launched a campaign entitled “We’re In Your Corner” in partnership with Network Rail. This campaign focuses on reaching men in mid-life, who are especially susceptible to mental health issues.
The aims of these charities are to get people talking about mental illness, to start a discussion; and offer appropriate advice to the individuals who need it most. In doing this they hope to open up more pathways for people to seek treatment.
Hopefully, through their continued support, the myths surrounding depression and mental health can be dispelled, meaning more men will be willing and able to seek the necessary help.
If you suspect that yourself, or a loved one, is suffering from depression, you can contact Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (UK) or visit their website here for guidance and support.
You can also contact C.A.L.M’s helpline on 0800 585858. Their helpline is open every day from 5pm – midnight.
By Jack Yarwood