Men’s Mental Health: How To Support A Partner Or Friend
Regardless of gender, getting the right help for mental health issues can help you feel seen and supported. However, for men, seeking help – whether that’s from a partner, friend or medical professional – can be more difficult due to societal stigmas. According to the Men’s Health Forum, ‘only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men’, a staggeringly disproportionate percentage.
Campaigns such as Movember aim to change this by destigmatising male mental health and raising awareness of the help available. In light of Movember 2023, we explore why men are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues, symptoms to look for, and how to help a male partner, friend or family member who may be struggling.
What is Movember and how does it help men’s mental health?
Launched in 2003, Movember focuses funding on men’s health projects, focusing on mental health and prostate and testicular cancer. Many people recognise the charity for its annual challenge of growing a moustache during the month of November; this has been a way to raise money for and awareness of the charity’s initiatives. These initiatives include mental health services for men and boys on local, national and global levels.
Are Men Disproportionately Affected By Mental Health Problems?
It is difficult to quantify the exact number of men affected by mental health problems, as it is likely that many sufferers are undiagnosed. We can only draw conclusions from available evidence, which reveals the following:
- Globally, men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women
- Men in the UK report lower levels of satisfaction in life than women
- Men in general exhibit a reluctance to seek help or be seen seeking help for their health
But what causes men to experience mental health problems differently to women? This is largely related to societal expectations of men and traditional gender roles.
Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, says: “Conventional gender norms promote an ideal of masculinity that centres around strength, competitiveness and refusal to be affected by vulnerability. This ideal is portrayed in the media, can be handed down from parent to child, and can even persist in our everyday language. For example, the common phrase ‘man up’ discourages the show of emotions such as sadness, anxiety and fear, as these emotions are ‘not manly’.
“As a result, men may be ashamed about feeling low, anxious or insecure, and try to hide their mental health issues from others. They may not wish to tell friends or family about the way they feel, and they may be embarrassed to visit a mental health professional.
“In addition, living under the expectation of stoicism can decrease satisfaction in life. Displaying emotion and sharing thoughts and feelings with others can enrich experiences, strengthen and build relationships, and help us feel supported – without that, it is easy to feel alone and unseen or unheard. “
Symptoms Of Mental Health Issues In Men
The symptoms of mental health problems in men can vary from those exhibited in women. In general, men may be more likely than women to display irritability, aggression, anger and risky behaviour when experiencing depression and/or anxiety. Men are also more likely to use alcohol excessively or other drugs, or become hyper focused on tasks that offer them distraction from normal life, such as their job. However, these symptoms may not be the same for all men, as everyone experiences depression differently.
Other symptoms of depression include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to engage in activities that previously brought joy
- Decreased communication with others
- Weight loss or gain
- Low libido
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Poor concentration
- Suicidal thoughts
In severe cases, when several factors come together, such as depression, excessive alcohol use, social problems and suicidal thoughts, this can escalate into extremely risky actions, including planned or impulsive self harm.
How To Help Someone With Depression
If a male partner, family member, friend or colleague is suffering with depression, there are various ways to help. These include:
- Listening without judgement – offer them a safe space where they can talk alone with you or in a group of trusted individuals. When they talk about how they feel, try to avoid judgement in your words and tone. If you do not know what advice to offer, just listen instead.
- Keep checking in – as men are less likely to reach out to others for support than women, check in with them regularly to provide them with an opportunity for communication. A supportive phone call or text can really make a difference to someone’s day.
- Research local services – there are support services across the country, offering everything from counselling to walking groups. Research the services that are available near you so that you can offer suggestions for support.
- Give them space – it may be hard to know when someone needs support or space, but all you need to do is ask.
- Know who to call in case of an emergency – if they are exhibiting behaviour which indicates that they are at risk of suicide, ensure that you are ready to call 999 or have a way of transporting them to A&E. In addition, you may want to keep their close contacts informed so that they are aware of the situation and can become available for support.
If you are worried about your own mental health, there are many things that you can do to care for yourself. If talking to your friends or family feels too difficult, you might find it easier to speak to someone on the phone, such as Samaritans, or find an online support group.
You can find a list of other tips for making life easier when you have depression in this article.
Seeking Help From A Mental Health Professional
Help for mental health problems is available across the public and private healthcare sectors. At The London Psychiatry Centre, we offer an stress-free and judgement-free environment where you can talk to a mental health consultant in confidence. If you need to bring a trusted friend or family member, we may be able to accommodate this at our clinic.
If you wish to book an appointment, you can do so by phone, email or our online booking form.