November is men’s mental health month, and it is important for anyone who identifies as male or a man to be able to talk about how they feel.
Unfortunately, there is still a big problem with men being able to talk openly about mental health, especially in Scotland. A recent social media poll ran by See Me Scotland found that 39% of men were worried about the reactions of others when talking about their mental health, while 30% said that not knowing who to talk to stopped them from opening up.
Additionally, the number of probable suicides in Scotland has risen for the second year in a row, with the majority of these being men, according to new data from National Records of Scotland.
As a result, See Me Scotland is looking at why talking about men’s mental health is important, and what they, and everyone, can do to help.
In Scotland alone, 3 in 4 people who die from suicide are men.
Mental health problems can affect anyone, your brother, your son, your partner, or your best friend. But culture means that many men feel unable to talk or admit when they are struggling with their mental health.
Societal expectations and stereotypes around having to be strong and “manly” play a role in why men are less likely to talk about their mental health, or seek help for their mental health problems.
Additionally, men in Scotland are more likely to use potentially harmful coping methods such as drugs and alcohol, which can have an impact on their mental health.
Unfortunately, there are still many myths about men’s mental health. The graphic below outlines 4 of them, and explains why they are not true.
Myth 1: Men don’t (or shouldn’t) get emotional.
- Fact: Emotions and mental health are part of everyone’s day to day life, it affects all of us.
Myth 2: Men don’t need help to recover from poor mental health.
- Fact: There is a societal stigma that often expects men to “man up” and £get over” how they’re feeling, but everyone deserves to get help for their mental health.
Myth 3: Men who struggle with their mental health are violent.
- Fact: Those who are struggling with their mental health are more likely to be victims of violence, than to be violent.
Myth 4: Some mental health disorders don’t affect men.
- Fact: Although they might be less common, mental health issues like eating disorders (for example) also affect men.
“A lot of people would say to me that men don’t suffer from eating disorders, it was a female illness. So I was scared to speak about it as I didn’t think I would be accepted by society.” – Tommy
While mental illnesses affect both men and women, men are less likely to seek mental health treatment than women, and are sadly more likely to die by suicide than women.
Although gender stereotypes about women can be damaging (how they look, for example), it is important to understand that men struggle with stereotypes and expectations too. Higher rates of suicide are also found in minority communities including LGBT+ men, men from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and those with low incomes.
Earlier this year, See Me Scotland launched a report with Feniks (an Edinburgh-based Polish charity), which found that Polish men living in Scotland are dying by suicide at nearly twice the rate of the general population.
The report found that stigma plays a big role in Polish men not wanting to talk about their feelings, and that there is a lack of opportunities to meet new people who might give help and support.
But there are also things which can be done to help, including creating opportunities for Polish men to increase their self-esteem and ensure they feel that their contribution (social and economic) to Scotland is recognised and appreciated, along with creating socialising opportunities for Polish men within their communities, and raising awareness of available resources and information.
The full report is available to view or download as a pdf from the See Me Scotland website.
The world is changing a lot right now, but being a good pal doesn’t have to.
There is research to suggest that men will access help when they feel it is accessible and meaningful, which is why it is so important to start conversations.
You don’t need to be an expert to ask a friend how they’re doing. A great way to start is: “What’s going on mate? You don’t seem yourself,” or a simple “Are you okay?” via text.
You might need to ask them more than once, which is okay. Just showing that you care really can make a big different.
And if a friend does open up and needs more support, See Me Scotland has links to places that can help.
- Mind the Men Group
See Me Scotland’s Community Champion Gary has been involved in setting up and running Mind the Men, a suicide prevention peer support group for men aged 18 years old and over.
Mind the Men is a place where men can to talk about their challenges, be listened to and feel supported.
For further information, including how to get involved, please visit the Mind the Men website.
- Men, Work and Mental Health Podcast
Their “Men, Work and Mental Health” podcast is also available to listen to, where Gary talks more about Mind the Men and the impact he has made in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination in his workplace.
To listen to or download the podcast, please visit the See Me Scotland podcast page.
When Tony started struggling with his mental health, he felt unable to talk about how he was feeling, and started drinking more to cope.
“Apparently when I was younger I was loud, outgoing and very friendly.
“As I got older I began to put on a little weight but I excelled at sport, I could run, jump and climb. I could play, golf, football, tennis, honestly literally anything. I had good friends, a very loving family and wonderful parents who did a lot with us and done everything they could to make me and my brother happy.
“Around thirteen to fifteen it slowly dried up. I was pretty good at football but because I was overweight, it affected me more and more as time went on.
“Then at 15 I began to drink. I was the guy who could down a bottle in one go and had the “good personality”. Being active became less a priority and drinking to get drunk was my favourite thing to do. I enjoyed the buzz and the feeling it gave me. It helped me become someone else.
“I got to around 20 years old, was in a job I hated and I was headed to back down that slope. This time it was around Christmas, I had been drinking, I remember waking home and I saw the train track. So I decided here was my time.
“For some reason I called my brother, I don’t know if I was calling to say goodbye but either way he raced to get me.
“For years I really thought I was “crazy”, I thought it would never end and wasn’t sure what the future held for me.
“For the last 10 years I have battled with my mind, but I also began to achieve things and finally find myself.
“I now understand its very common to go through what I have. It is also possible to function despite having an ongoing battle.
“It got to the point I felt comfortable sharing my story and being open about it.
“I have my dark days but I have learned how to deal with it.
“I am excited about what the future holds and now keen to live in the moment.”
Read Tony’s full story on the See Me Scotland website.