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  • Writer's pictureDr Abrar Hussain

Men's mental health




I want to dedicate this piece to the mental health of men, and I will start by asking a rhetorical question “Where are the men?”. It is a question based on my observations and clinic data over many years that highlights this issue. Men do not readily seek help for mental health difficulties. The reasons are many and in addition to individual circumstances, there are societal and cultural reasons.


Men are under pressure to conform to the socially created male identity, one that is mainly characterised by being strong and protective. In order to achieve this, men tend to disconnect from feelings and distance themselves from any sense of vulnerability. Over time, they may learn that showing any sign of weakness is not acceptable and unfortunately this can affect their psychological well-being in a significant way. Sometimes, men adopt ways to cope with painful feelings that are unhelpful. Addiction to substances and/or behaviours is one such outlet and sadly, this can compound underlying psychological difficulties.


The use of unhelpful language such as “be a man” and “boys don’t cry” can contribute to stigma around seeking help. I think language plays a key role in building narratives and from a young age, boys get exposed to these harmful narratives. Unresolved psychological pain from a young age can manifest as disturbed and oppositional behaviour and we should really seek to understand the behaviour from a compassionate stance. Punishing “bad behaviour” without fully understanding the contributory factors may seem like a quick win but often adds more layers of trauma. This can lead to more anger and aggression and set up a vicious circle with long standing consequences.


National data tells us that the male suicide rate is around 3 times the female suicide rate across all regions of the UK. This is an important statistic that highlights the issue. The charity CALM highlights that the leading cause of death for men under 50 is suicide and again, this is a shocking statistic.


As a society we need to do more to challenge stigma and support the men in our lives to seek help when needed. It is up to all of us to check unhelpful language and avoid narratives that cause harm. The charity Movember suggests a helpful way to reach out (ALEC – Ask, Listen, Encourage action and Check in). If you see a man in your life struggling, reach out, create a safe space, and get the message across that it is ok not to be ok. Tell them that change is possible, and help is available. Hope is the antidote for adversity.

 

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