Oh yeah, I forgot testicles prevent mental illness …
Was my (sarcastic) response to this tweet:
In case you guys didn’t know it’s mental health awareness week so we should all be doing our part by discussing mental health with honesty and openness.
It’s bad enough in that we don’t talk about mental health as much as physical health. We shouldn’t need to have a mental health awareness week, we don’t have a physical health awareness week do we?
But one of the most important topics to me is addressing why mental illness is judged as weakness, especially in men. Attitudes like those above do nothing but discourage some men from speaking out when they need help and almost shames them for it. Being a male doesn’t protect you from mental health issues, in fact:
*One in four people experience a mental health issue every year and up to one in six people report a mental health problem every week in England.
*There has been a 34% rise of male mental health patients since 2006.
*Shockingly, the rise of suicide in men has increased 90% since 2006 for ages 45-54 years, now the most likely age group for men to commit suicide.
*Three times as many men committed suicide than women in 2014 (the male rate was 16.8 suicides per 100,000 people, versus 5.2 female deaths) despite women having typically higher rates of mental illness.
Why is this happening?
There are many different theories attempting to explain the startling number of male suicides but no one really knows for sure.
I think there is still a lot of pressure for men in general to fill out the masculine husband role, to bring financial stability for the family, to be a strong shoulder to cry on. Yet studies show that men who experience a divorce or unemployment/financial difficulties (which often happen in midlife) are more likely to commit suicide than women.
Expressing your emotions and getting help with a mental illness is tough as it is but the truth is that a lot men who do so are are at risk of being viewed as weaker, more feminine and need to “man up” as Piers put it.
What does it lead to?
There is a huge gap in society’s view of a man as he should be compared with a man in crisis. I think because of that often men are more likely to bottle up their emotions until it gets to breaking point where they see no other option but to take their own life.
It’s hardly surprising that it seems to be more difficult for a male to reach out for help considering that most societies would think it embarrassing just for a man to cry.
How to help?
I can’t give a solution to suicide in men or women so can only speak from my experience. Had I not gotten the help I needed when I needed it I would’ve been one of the statistics above without a shadow of doubt. I know how it feels to be afraid to talk about what is really going on inside your head.
But I also know that getting through and talking about the worst of my mental illness has made me stronger and given me a lot of pride in myself.
Our society needs some adjustments towards all mental health for both sexes. I really think that starting with the basics of recovery such as asking for help, talking to family and trusted friends and expressing emotion then applying them to a realistic view of what a man should be it will become more acceptable for men to do so and prevent a tragedy down the line.
And most importantly we should never victim blame. We should never say “oh, well he could’ve just asked for help” or “what was happening to him/her wasn’t even that bad” and so pointing the finger when in reality cannot judge if we haven’t been there ourselves.
We need to create a culture of helping men and women!
I would really love to hear other people’s opinion on this complex topic, please comment/ message me with your thoughts!