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Men’s mental health

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Published: 23 September 2020

A man sitting alone looking upset

We all have mental health. Just like physical fitness, it can range from being completely well to needing real and immediate help. 

This week, the University of Sunderland in London’s Health and Wellbeing team are exploring men’s mental health – why men are less likely to report feeling depressed and what we can all do to create a culture that supports and protects vulnerable men. 

Recent statistics highlight a worrying need to think about men’s mental health. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 40. 

With 125 people taking their own lives each week, and 75% of those being male, this is a problem that can’t be ignored. 

About one in eight men have mental health problems. But this statistic is only an estimate because, as men experience greater shame, theyre far less likely to report issues than women. 

Men have been found to do self-harming things as a way of coping; substance abuse and drinking are common. 

Although poor mental health can be caused by a lot of issues, a regular theme among men is the use of unhelpful hyper-masculine stereotypes heard from when they’re young. 

Statements that don’t encourage men to feel comfortable with being vulnerable are common. 

It can affect their ability to explore their sense of identity, masculinity and mental health. 

You might have heard phrases like “boys don’t cry” or “man up” when talking about men and their emotions. 

These are statements around strength and power that can influence men to act in negative ways, both individually and as a group. 

When we separate ourselves from normal, healthy emotions, we’re less likely to speak up and ask for help. 

A lot of men see anxiety and depression as a weakness. 

That’s a big reason why, when going through something difficult, a lot of men ‘bottle it up’ or keep quiet 

That impulse can lead to self-harm or even suicide. 

Getting help

A good place to start fighting back against this is to encourage men to talk openly and safely about their needs and emotions. 

There is help available:  

  • The Samaritans: Call their free 24/7 helpline on 116 123 24 if you need someone to talk. They’re there to listen to you without judgement or telling you what to do. 
  • CALM: The Campaign Against Living Miserably is a national helpline for men to talk about any worries or fears they haveYou can call them on 0800 58 58 58 from 5pm - midnight all year.  
  • Shout: A free text-based support service. Send a message to¿them at¿85258 if you’re going through a personal crisis, can’t cope and need support.¿They can help with urgent issues including suicidal thoughts, abuse, assault, self-harm, bullying and relationship challenges.  

Staying healthy 

There are loads of things you can do on a regular basis to stay mentally well:  

Keep active 

Get outdoors and¿exercise, even if it’s just a walk in your lunch-break. Not only will this help you stay fit and sleep better, but you’ll start to find it easier to not focus on painful thoughts and feelings.  

Eat properly 

When you’re depressed it’s easy to either eat too little or only eat junk food. Make sure you’ve got a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, even if you don’t feel hungry. 

Avoid alcohol and drugs

Using substances to improve your mood is called ‘self-medicating’. It might make you feel better for a short time, but in the long run, they actually increase feelings of depression. This is particularly true for illegal drugs like amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.  

Don’t feel bad for not sleeping

If you can’t sleep try doing something that you enjoy like listening to the radio or reading. If you’re feeling tense try exercising, yoga, massages or aromatherapy.  

Think about your lifestyle 

Are you a perfectionist that pushes yourself too hard? Set more realistic targets and cut back on your workload. You might need to be kinder to yourself.  

Take a break

It can be really helpful to get away and have some time from your normal routine. Even a short period, like a few hours, can make a huge difference.  

Read more 

There are loads of books and websites about depression. Reading them can really help in understanding what you’re going through. 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, book an appointment to speak with the Health and Wellbeing team today. 

Visit Compass or email them at londonhealth@sunderland.ac.uk for a free, confidential one-to-one chat.

Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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