This week, 13 – 19 June, the world celebrates Men’s Health Week.
Men’s Health Week serves as an important reminder to look at the specific health challenges faced by men disproportionately and focuses on getting men to become aware of problems they may have or could develop and gain the courage to do something about it.
While progress has certainly been made in recent years, there is still a pressing need to address the barriers and stigmas surrounding men’s mental health.
Though many of us may believe gone are the days of gender-specific stereotypes; where men must be strong and ‘manly’, the expectation for men to be stoic and unyielding in the face of adversity unfortunately remains in society, today. This societal pressure can have detrimental effects on men’s mental wellbeing. The reluctance to express vulnerability or ask for support often leads to the suppression of emotions and a silent struggle with mental health issues. Men’s Health Week seeks to address this issue head-on and encourage men to embrace a more proactive approach to their mental wellbeing.
Breaking down the barriers and stigmas
To encourage help-seeking behaviour in men, it is essential to address the barriers and stigmas surrounding men’s mental health.
Through conversing with men who have expressed experiencing suicidal thoughts, we understand one of the biggest barriers that prevents them from seeking support behaviour is the fear of appearing weak or vulnerable. Previously, society ingrained the idea that seeking help is a sign of vulnerability, leading many people to believe they should handle their problems alone. Though this narrative has changed slightly over the years, many men continue to suffer in silence, unaware that reaching out for support is a courageous act that can lead to improved outcomes for their wellbeing.
To break this barrier, it is crucial to redefine masculinity and challenge the stereotypes that restrict men’s emotional expression. Men must be encouraged to acknowledge their feelings and understand that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness. By promoting positive male role models who openly discuss their struggles and advocate for mental health, having more campaigns around men’s mental health, and generally shining more light on the topic, we can help to reshape societal expectations and create a safe space for men to seek the assistance they need.
Another obstacle is the lack of awareness and understanding surrounding both general mental health and suicidal ideation. Some men may not recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and suicidal thoughts or underestimate their impact on their overall wellbeing. Educating men about both of these topics is pivotal in breaking this barrier. By providing accessible information, dispelling myths, and promoting suicide prevention resources, we can empower men to identify when they need support and guide them towards appropriate resources.
To achieve an open and supportive society, we must work together to destigmatise conversations about suicide and mental health – for the benefit of everyone. We know that often men need to feel comfortable discussing their emotions and experiences without the fear of judgment or ridicule. By fostering open dialogue and creating supportive environments, such as men’s groups or online communities, we can build a sense of camaraderie and connection. When men realise that they are not alone in their struggles, they are more likely to seek help and find solace in shared experiences.
There are many fantastic groups emerging across the country that are doing this well – whether that be through social media, or local community groups that meet up regularly and provide a safe space for men to talk.
Workplaces can also contribute to breaking barriers by prioritising employee wellbeing. Employers should establish supportive environments that prioritise work-life balance, mental health awareness, and stress management programs. Offering confidential resources, such as employee assistance programmes or helplines, can also provide men with a safe and confidential outlet for seeking help.
Breaking barriers and encouraging help-seeking behaviour in men requires a collective effort from all facets of society. By challenging harmful stereotypes, promoting education and awareness, fostering safe spaces for open dialogue, improving access to mental health services, and nurturing supportive environments, we can empower men to prioritise their mental health.
The urgency to act
Tragically, suicide remains the leading cause of death in men under the age of 50. The most recent statistics from 2021 highlight that males have continued to account for three-quarters of suicide deaths registered (with 4,129 male deaths being recorded that year compared with 1,454 female deaths). Tragically, this is a theme that we have seen since the mid-1990s, highlighting the urgent need to address this devastating problem. By breaking down the barriers and stigmas surrounding suicide, we can encourage men to openly discuss their mental health struggles and seek appropriate support, ultimately reducing the alarming suicide rates among men.
Encouraging help-seeking behaviour among men is a crucial step toward addressing men’s mental health and personal struggles. By breaking down the barriers and stigmas associated with discussing men’s mental health and/or suicidal thoughts, and providing appropriate resources, we can empower men to prioritise their wellbeing and seek the support they need. Together, let us work tirelessly during this year’s Men’s Health Week and beyond to create a society where men feel comfortable discussing their mental health openly and seeking the assistance necessary for a healthier and happier life.
Make sure to speak to the men in your life, whether that be at home, work, school, or elsewhere in our personal lives. Open the conversation, share resources and work towards creating a safe and supportive environment where men feel they can talk about their struggles.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, and need a safe non-judgmental space to talk. PAPYRUS is here for you. Call HOPELINE247 for free, confidential advice and support on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039 967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 24 hours a day, every day of the year. We also have a range of help and advice resources available providing information on where you can access support, coping mechanisms, conversation starters and more. You can access all our resources, here.