‘How ya goin’, mate?’
It’s the classic Australian greeting between male friends and colleagues.
Chances are the reply will be positive, like, ‘I’m alright, you?’
Unfortunately, there’s also a chance that they aren’t feeling so good in terms of mental health.
Unfortunately, men just aren’t that great at talking about their feelings, especially if they’re struggling with anxiety, stress or depression.
In a recent poll in the UK, 77% of men reported they had suffered from common mental health issues, yet 40% have never spoken to anyone about it.
Alarmingly, 40% of men also said that it would take thoughts of suicide or self-harm to make them seek professional help.
And, while men and women have similar rates of mental health conditions, men account for around 75% of suicides.
Why don’t men reach out and talk when it’s so important?
It’s true that men appear to be talking about their mental health more than ever.
Sports stars, celebrities, politicians and other people with high public profiles are increasingly going public and discussing mental health challenges they have faced or are tackling right now.
Charities and advocates for men’s health, like Movember, are putting mental well-being in the spotlight and making it part of the broader conversation.
The stigma around mental health and suicide is being broken down.
So why are many men still finding it so hard to reach out and have an important chat with someone about how they are really feeling?
The short answer is that we can place much of the blame on outdated cultural ideas of what a man ‘should’ be.
A man ‘should’ be strong and talking about your feelings is a sign of weakness.
As well as the ongoing stigma, many men have reported they feel embarrassed, don’t want to be a burden, and find it hard to admit they need support regarding mental health.
But there are other, more subtle reasons why many men still find it hard to talk about their mental health.
Mental Health America has uncovered three interesting insights.
1. We’re not talking to men in the right way
Mental health awareness campaigns often use soft and caring language. But Man Therapy has shown that men initially respond better to humour, even dark humour.
Once engaged, they have less resistance to talking about their mental health.
2. Men like to DIY
Just like the broken gate at the side, men like to have a crack at fixing things themselves.
This DIY attitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing if friends, family and health professionals can encourage self-care strategies for the men they know.
Men also like to accept help when they can return the favour and help the other person. This avoids any feelings of weakness
3. Men have different ways of expressing their mental health issues
Women respond to symptoms of depression in what we think of as more typical ways by appearing sad or having low self-esteem.
Men can do this, but they also show more ‘irritable’ traits like frustration, anger, and impulsivity, which aren’t always ‘classic’ signs of depression.
If you notice these types of behaviour, try and encourage them to talk or seek help from a professional.
Some tips for coping with mental health
Identifying that some men like to DIY, here are some things they can try to self-care.
- Try relaxation techniques. Breathing exercises, meditation, and visualisation techniques are all good ways to feel calmer and more relaxed. There are many good apps, websites and YouTube videos that you can explore to find what works best for you.
- Look after your physical health. Physical and mental health are closely related. Eat well and get out and exercise. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins which are natural mood enhancers.
- Cut down on the alcohol. A drink can seem like a good idea when you’re feeling stressed or a bit flat, but alcohol has depressive qualities. So try and cut back on the alcohol, and you’ll feel mentally and physically better.
Speak to someone
You may think you have no-one to talk to, but there are people all around you who are potential ‘listeners’.
Whether it’s a loved one, a friend, a work colleague or someone you might play sports with, a sympathetic ear from a person you trust can help you feel much better. And if someone feels they trust you, it’s enough just to listen without judgement or feeling you need to have the answers.
Even sharing your own experience, so they feel they are not the only one with these feelings, can be a great help.
See your GP
You don’t have to endure mental health issues for a long time before seeking professional support. Start by seeing your GP. They’ll be able to help or refer you to another professional.
In the end, if you are suffering from mental health problems, man or woman, it’s always good to talk and share your feelings.
We know it can be hard, but it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways of getting help and feeling better.
The following resource has been provided for informational purposes only. As it does not consider your personal circumstances and needs, we recommend you obtain your own professional health advice to determine how this resource may apply to you.