40% of men in the UK will not open up about their mental health problems*, and with the spotlight on Movember and male health, it is increasingly important to look out for the men in your life and spot when they are feeling low.
Movember is a month to raise awareness for a number of men’s issues – from prostate cancer to mental health. Mental health continues to be an important topic year-round, especially for men considering the societal pressures that may prevent them from opening up.
It is true that we all play an important role in challenging harmful gender stereotypes, with problematic phrases such as ‘man up’ being used as common day-to-day phrases of speech. However this common language aids societal expectations around why men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems, and therefore we must ensure that we create a safe and inclusive space for men to open up, seek support and feel comfortable in their surroundings without feeling confined to gender expectations.
Jon Kole, Medical Director and Senior Director of Psychiatry at Headspace provided some insight into why men struggle to open up on mental health:
Emotional awareness and openness are not things we are born with, they are skills that need to be learned, practised, cultivated. Men raised in cultures and structures that glorify quiet fortitude, unflinching confidence, and unwavering strength will unsurprisingly be hesitant to speak up about their emotions.
Jon Kole, Medical Director and Senior Director of Psychiatry at Headspace
How can we spot if a loved one is struggling with their mental health?
Below are five tells to look out for when a man is feeling low:
- Being more withdrawn from social activities
- Frequent and extreme mood swings
- Increased or excessive use of alcohol and drugs to cope with emotional pain
- Loss of interest in hobbies or decline in performance at work at school
- Neglecting self-care
Giorgio, Therapy Manager at Headspace, comments:
It’s important to note that these signs alone do not lead to a diagnosis; however, are helpful cues to initiating a conversation with your loved one.
Giorgio Châtelain, Therapy Manager at Headspace
What are the next steps after spotting these signs?
- Encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Use a non-judgemental approach as these conversations can be anxiety provoking.
- Talk about self-care such as practising mindfulness and mediation to de-stress. This can help us to be present and aware of what’s happening with the various aspects of ourselves, including our mental health – this is especially important to those who might find it difficult to accept that they are struggling.
- Let them lead a discussion on the topic at their own pace. This might be the first time they are openly talking about their mental health, so give them the time and space to converse in their own way when ready.
Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Expert Dr Sophie Mort adds:
The more we work together as a society to raise awareness of the barriers people face when it comes to their mental health, the more quickly we will overcome them. This is a group effort.
Dr Sophie, Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Expert