Mind your head and discuss your mental health
By Lisa Salmon
Discussing your mental health, especially if you are struggling with low moods and depression, is never easy.
But on the whole, women are far better at talking to one another about their mental wellbeing than men.
The same is true of the media — every day, newspapers and magazines touch on women’s mental wellbeing, whether it’s anxiety, or coping with life’s ups and downs. But these issues are rarely discussed in relation to men.
One in six people will experience a mental health problem at some stage in their life, and research has found that 37% of men are feeling worried or low.
Yet their wives, partners, other relatives and friends may have no idea there’s a problem because so many men keep problems to themselves.
Not talking about it or seeking help though isn’t doing them any favours — in fact, it usually makes their problems far worse, as three in four suicides are by men, and 73% of people who go missing are men.
“I think men are generally less prompt and less willing to seek help about their mental health than women,” says Dr John Chisholm, who has a special interest in men’s health.
“It’s not that mental health issues are more common in men, it’s what men do about them that’s the problem.”
Just 23% of men would see their GP if they felt low for more than two weeks, compared to 33% of women, according to Mind research.
“Culturally, men are reluctant to admit and talk about personal problems because they see it as embarrassing and a sign of weakness and vulnerability,” says Chisholm. “There’s a reluctance to make a fuss or appear silly, and a feeling that things will get better even if they take no action.”
Chisholm points out that some fathers struggle with the responsibilities of being a dad, but don’t talk about it as much as new mothers. “Parenthood is a huge change in your life, and you need to be less self-absorbed, and I think that comes as quite a shock to many parents, particularly men.”
Chisholm says that because most childcare is still done by women, healthcare professionals are more likely to pick up a mother’s depression and anxiety, rather than the father’s.
“The situation isn’t going to change overnight, but we want people to realise that talking, and going to see their GP, is a positive step. And if they see their doctor they won’t just be offered drugs, as there are services such as cognitive behavioural therapy which people may not be aware of.
“Many men seek solace in drink and cab become isolated and withdrawn, so anything that can make it easier for them to talk about health has got to be a step in the right direction,” he says.