Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 runs from Monday 9th of May until Sunday the 15th of May with this year’s theme being announced as loneliness. Loneliness is something we’ve all been affected by in some way during the last few years with the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.
The aim of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is clear, to connect with one another. To generate meaningful relationships and conversations with our friends, families, colleagues, and communities. Create a safe and welcoming space to encourage conversation and consequently support for those who may be struggling with loneliness and their mental health. If your only way of contacting loved ones is via technology, make sure the person on the other end of the phone knows how to reach out if they need too. We need to create an atmosphere of support. This could be in as simple a step of reaching out to those around you and checking how they’re doing, listen to them and make them feel heard. By inviting these conversations we are letting those around us know they are not alone and there is someone there to provide support, community, and care.
We, as a society, need to make sure we are providing support to those who need it. The statistics are shouting for themselves, crying out for those who are struggling and urge us to do more to support men who are being affected by mental health issues.
A group within society who is disproportionately being affected by mental health issues is men. In England, it has been reported that around 1 in 8 men suffer with a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, these figures cannot wholly be representative of the number of men suffering from mental health issues as it only tells of problems that have physically been reported. Has the acceptability and perception of men talking out about their mental health changed in a post-lockdown society? Are we in a place culturally where men feel able and comfortable to raise awareness to their struggles with mental health? We were all affected by the lockdown and a community of being able to speak out about our struggles with mental health was created. We were checking in on our loved ones, touching base via Zoom and Facetime. Has enough been done to create a supporting community for men to speak out?
Through the recent Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard trial there has been the question raised of how we perceive men and their struggles with mental health. Whether we have created an environment where men can feel safe to reach out to their loved ones. The Mental Health Foundation has reported that 3 times as many men as women die by suicide, with the highest rates of suicide being men aged 40-49. Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under the age of 50. With such high and heart-breaking figures, the question remains what can we do to help our fathers, brothers, and sons.
The first step is to try and understand why it is men feel they are unable to report their mental health issues. Society has expectations and traditional gender roles placed on men, they are expected to be strong, dominant and in-control. These expectations make it harder to open up when they are struggling when they are faced with comments like ‘Man up’. Talking about emotions has previously been a conversation reserved for women, with men encouraged to bottle their emotions and essentially get on with it. This is an extremely dangerous message that young boys are hearing and carry into adulthood. We as a society must recognise that men can be victims, can be suffering and do suffer with mental health issues, Although society is progressing and this is no longer a widely held response to men’s emotions, we are still not doing enough to create an atmosphere of support.
Priory Group surveyed a group of 1,000 men and asked what the reasons are that they don’t talk about their mental health and their responses included the following:
- ‘I’ve learnt to deal with it’ (40%)
- ‘I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone’ (36%)
- ‘I’m too embarrassed’ (29%)
- ‘There’s negative stigma around this type of thing’ (20%)
- ‘I don’t want to admit I need support’ (17%)
- ‘I don’t want to appear weak’ (16%)
- ‘I have no one to talk to’ (14%)
These results show us we have not done enough to make men feel they can reach out when they’re struggling. The men who responded in the survey are reflected the long-held view that modern society is trying to obliterate, that it isn’t manly to open up and reach out. In training men to be someone who can be leaned on, society has banned them from being the ones who need to lean.
ManUp? is a charity that is dedicated to providing support to men who are struggling with mental health. The Oxford definition for man up is to: ‘be brave or tough enough to deal with a difficult or unpleasant situation’. A phrase that needs to be eradicated from society and erased from the dictionary. Mental health is not gendered, it is indiscriminate and will affect individuals regardless of age, race, and gender. Being brave and tough is should not be synonymous and comparable to masculinity, in doing so we are telling men that if they are struggling then they are not a man. ManUp’s mission is ‘The adopted term of ‘Man up’ as we know it, needs to be challenged. Don’t brush yourself down and get on with it’. Ask the men in your life how they are doing, let them know you are asking because you genuinely want to know. Check in on your male friends, colleagues, and relatives. Make sure the men in your lives know they can reach out to you.
If you are worried about someone in your lives mental health, here are a few ways you can help:
- Let them know you’re there to listen to them and will support them without judgement. Create an open conversation where they will feel comfortable to reach out if they need too.
- Try keep in touch. Those experiencing mental health problems may feel unable to reach out so try and take this responsibility away from them and check in with them. A text or a phone call may make a huge difference.
- Help those that tell you they’re struggling to get help. Let them know it’s ok to ask for help and there are systems out there who want to provide support. You can show your support by helping them contact their GP or by going with them to their appointment if they would like you too.
This Mental Health Awareness week we need to start conversations and create a network of support for those who need it. There are many charities out their dedicated to providing support to those who are struggling. We’ve compiled a short list below to those who need it.
Their mission is that the adopted term of ‘Man Up’ as we know it, needs to be challenged. Don’t brush yourself down and get on with it.
Mind.org.uk 0300 123 3393
This Mental Health Awareness Week they’re using spoken word to show the different ways people talk about their experiences.
Samaritans.org 116 123
They provide 24 hour a day support, 365 days a year. Providing free phone calls with their message being ‘We’re here for anyone who needs someone’.
Youngminds.org.uk 0808 802 5544
Their vision is they ‘want to see a world where no young person feels alone with their mental health’. The support is for both young people and those around them dealing with mental health issues.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity united against suicide and provide support for anyone who needs to talk confidentially about a tough time they’re experiencing.
They are a student run charity who provide support to fellow student. Their night service provides a listening ear to students in need.