Men’s Health Week runs every year in the week before Father’s Day, 15th – 21st June.
When it comes to men and mental health or wellness the two are often not seen in the same sentence. Depression is often found to be more difficult to diagnose in men. This is because men don’t tend to complain about the typical symptoms, more often than not, it’s the physical symptoms of depression that lead them to visit their doctor. According to netdoctor.co.uk, the lifetime rate of depression is 12% in women and 8% in men. This marked difference could, however, be due to fewer men seeking help for depression.
Men tend to dislike admitting to themselves or to anyone else that there may be something wrong. Whilst wanting to feel strong and in control are not inherently negative things, some research suggests that a reliance on these traditional ideals as what it means to be “a man” may negatively impact men’s mental health. A 2012 study carried out by The Samaritans found that middle-aged men today face being in two very different generations, the pre-war ‘silent’ and the post-war ‘me’ generation. This means they may feel stuck somewhere between the strong, silent male stereotype of their father’s generation and the more progressive and open generation of their son’s.
Behaving in a way that conforms to these expectations, specifically of the strong silent male can be associated with increased distress and poorer mental and physical health. Some research also suggests that men who feel as though they are unable speak openly about emotions or health concerns may be less able to recognise symptoms of health problems in themselves, and less likely to reach out for support.
IT’S OK FOR MEN TO NOT FEEL OK
Men don’t like to admit to themselves or to anyone else that there may be something wrong. There is a perception that feeling upset or down is a weakness of some kind and it also goes against the traditional stereotype of a male being in control. It takes courage and a different kind of strength to be vulnerable and to accept that “It’s OK not to feel OK”.
ASK FOR HELP
Many of the messages picked up as boys tell us that ‘real men’ sort out their own problems, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that men are less likely to consult a GP than women. According to a report compiled by Men’s Health Forum in 2014 and revised in 2017, 19% of men die before their 65th birthday. The biggest cause of death in men is cancer, followed by circulatory diseases. Men are 14% more likely to get cancer than women and they’re 37% more likely to die from the disease. Men between the ages of 20 and 40 are half as likely to go to the doctor than women in the same age bracket. Men were also less likely to know about their health status, be able to spot cancer warning signs, and read about medication before taking it
Don’t compare yourself to some ideal notion of the perfect male. We all have a mix of strengths and weaknesses and that’s part of the make-up of all men. Some of us are good with numbers, some are good at DIY, others make people laugh. Accepting yourself for who you are is crucial to good mental health. Be proud of who you are. Recognise and accept that you cannot be good at everything.
Regular exercise can really give your mental health a boost. Find something active you enjoy – sport, walking or cycling and decide when you are going to do it and stick to it each week.
EAT A BALANCED DIET
Your diet is important for your mental and physical health. According to Eating Disorders UK males seem to be less bothered about binge eating. This may explain why they are less inclined to address it by, for example, heading off to slimming clubs or going to their GP. Males who do not have anorexia or bulimia also appear to have lower perceptual sensitivity toward their eating habits and are less likely to describe an episode of overeating as being a “binge”. They are also less scared of the effects of a high calorie meal as compared to women.
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Having a balanced diet will help the way you think.
There has never been a better time to seek and be accepted for help with your mental wellbeing. Familiarise yourself with any mental health initiatives your employer provides, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), and share links or information with your male friends and family.