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Supporting Men's Mental Health

Group on a hike

According to research, 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health.1 These figures are concerning, as we are witnessing a progressive decline in men's mental well-being, this was also backed up from the findings in this year’s Irish Life Health of the Nation Research This raises the question of why this group remains silent on this crucial health issue?

From my experience as a Counselling Psychologist and Mental Health Professional, I have recognised that both males and females can often experience mental health conditions differently. Many men tend to externalise symptoms, such as anger and frustration, and may engage in riskier behaviours. Research suggests that men are more inclined to self-medicate to cope with their challenges.2. These behaviours are not typically recognised as symptoms of mental health conditions, so family and friends may not understand that their loved one may need support.

Conversely, females are more likely to display some of the more classical symptoms of depression, such as crying, feeling sad, and hopelessness, which are more obvious indicators of psychological distress. These symptoms alert others that the female may need support and professional help.

Along with signs of distress not being recognised by others in men, it is often not picked up by the individuals themselves, or there can be an unwillingness to ask for help. Often, individuals themselves fail to recognise these signs. Unfortunately, men can adhere to traditional gender roles, believing that expressing emotions and seeking professional help is a sign of weakness. These outdated, traditional notions come at a great personal cost to men.

As a society, we need to overcome gender-related barriers and stigma to empower men to seek support like their female counterparts. Equipping family and friends with the knowledge to spot the early warning signs of mental health conditions and giving them the tools to address their concerns in a sensitive manner is a significant first step in supporting men to seek help. It is also essential that all parties know where to go for the 'right' professional support if needed. If unsure, we encourage you to contact your EAP for guidance.

These measures will help us address some of the concerns highlighted in our most recent Health of the Nation Survey 3:

  • Severe distress in males has increased by 8% since 2022

  • 32% of men would like to reduce their dependence on substances or behaviours, (alcohol, drugs, gambling, internet) compared to 23% of women

  • 48% of males agreed that they experienced criticism for their dependence on substances or behaviours

  • 21% of men did not know where to go for support

Takeaway tips to empower families and friends to support men's mental health:

  • Recognise the early warning signs that someone might not be okay.

  • Do not ignore these signs.

  • Reach out and share your concerns.

  • Give tangible examples of what you are observing that have caused you concern.

  • Listen and give them your full attention.

  • Do not judge what they say to you.

  • Ask them what they might need from you.

  • In case they do not want to talk to you, encourage them to speak to someone else.

  • Identify another supportive person.

  • Having a good doctor is essential, as they are the gatekeeper to other services.

  • Ask if someone can accompany them to see a doctor (friend or family).

  • Monitor how they are doing over time.

  • Seek support for yourself.

  • Consider contacting the EAP for guidance and resources on how to support this person.

  • Always contact a doctor or emergency service if you are concerned that a person might be at risk of self-harm.

     

    References:
    1. Mens Mental Health (The Priory Group Report, 2023)
    2. 6 Common Barriers Men Face when Seeking Mental Health Support (Cooperman MD; et al. 2022)
    3. Health of the Nation Report (Irish Life Health, 2023) irishlifehealth.ie/IrishLifeHealth/media/Wellness/IL_HotN_Report23_vFINAL28_09.pdf

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