Men urged to focus on their mental health

In a week that highlights mental health issues in the population in general, there have been worrying statistics uncovered about the growing rate of male suicide. Men have been a particular focus, as they account for 75% of suicides and it is the biggest killer of men under the age of forty-five.

As a stark reminder that although the doors are being opened for men to talk about their problems, men are still finding it hard to speak up, a recent campaign launched by This Morning and Project 84 brought to light that 84 men take their own lives every week.

The issue has been raised much more openly in the media and on TV recently, with major celebrities using their wide audience to speak openly about their own mental health and raise awareness, and having been a huge storyline on Coronation Street.

The soap opera is well known for tackling tough areas of life, and the recent storyline followed one actor as he slipped into depression, shut out family and friends, mentally closed down, and took his own life in his bathroom.

Shayne Ward who plays on screen character Aidan Connor tweeted:

Several famous men have talked publicly about their mental health struggles, something it is reported could save lives. The ‘You’re not alone’ initiative saw Johnson, Reynolds, Phelps and Love amongst many more working to reduce stigma, and proving it is possible to candidly name the mental health experiences that so many men keep silent.

Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted: “We’re terrified of being viewed as something other than men. We know ourselves to be men, but don’t know how to be our whole selves. A lot of us (me included) either shut off or experience deep shame or rage. Or all three. Again: men are terrified.”

He added: “Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others.”

The men leading this movement say it is about helping confused boys and men make sense of their role in 21st century families, communities and workplaces.

Often the combination of poor job prospects, family and financial strains and low levels of job satisfaction can be factors that make a person vulnerable to suicidal thinking and behaviour.

There are guides for employers published by Business in the Community in partnership with the Samaritans and Public Health England, ‘Reducing the risk of suicide’ and ‘Crisis management in the event of suicide’.

It is also recognised how profound suicide can be on other employees. Eugene Farrell, AXA PP healthcare’s head of trauma, says that suicides often: “lead to a sense of guilt because people may speculate about whether they could have done anything to prevent the death.”

Dr Mark Linwood, Director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare explained that depression is a very common mental health problem and that talking about it, especially by men, is still a taboo.

Making sure there are the correct support networks in businesses, for example counselling services, is the best thing to help a workforce come to terms and adjust to the sudden death of a colleague. From work to home to friendships, it is clear mental health impacts all areas of life.

A separate study was carried out by Suicide Prevention Charity Samaritans, alongside male grooming company The Bluebeards Revenge. Nick Gibbens, a spokesperson, said: “Men are much less likely to seek support for mental health issues than women and this needs to change. Suicide is also the single biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK and, in 2016, 76% of people who died by suicide in the UK were male.”

The findings showed that that 41% of men are more concerned about their physical appearance than they are about their mental health. This research also revealed that reading, walking and running are the most popular de-stressing activities.

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