The ‘masculinity’ of men infringes on their access to psychological help: Read this to hear a helpful approach to mental health
One in eight men in England suffers from a common mental health problem(1). That’s an alarming statistic—it’s certain that someone you know is suffering, possibly in silence.
There are a great deal of societal expectations placed upon men. How to act, how to behave, how to express emotions. The traditional idea of masculinity is that men should be providers and breadwinners. That they are stoic, strong, dominant and in control. But not every man conforms to this, and it can be difficult to speak up.
Men make up the bulk of workers in industries like construction. It’s demanding, physical work, and there can be a culture of masculinity. That’s not necessarily negative—lads mucking in, working hard and getting the job done is always good. But what happens when someone in that role feels emotionally drained?
Research(2) has shown that when men conform to traditional, masculine gender roles, the likelihood of seeking help wanes. It gets harder to admit you’re feeling low, you develop bad coping habits and fall into a vicious cycle.
This has severe effects. Men are three times more vulnerable to taking their own lives than women(3). On top of that, they’re far less likely to seek help—34% would be embarrassed to take time off for mental health reasons(4).
It’s not hard to see that changes need to be made, here. But what can you do to help?
First, you need to know what obstacles exist. The stigma around male mental health can be so great that men simply try to press on with their lives, often making matters far worse. Observe, talk and ask your people—find out how to remove as many obstacles as possible.
Men suffering from mental health issues can feel that their masculinity is threatened. Not all men feel like this, but for the ones that do, it’s a powerful discouragement. Work around this difficulty, and communicate openly with men about issues. IT’s the only way to break down those barriers.
The world is changing rapidly, and for some, traditional masculine gender roles are seen as negative. Reinforce a ‘male-positive’ atmosphere. Share positive stories about successful male recovery from issues. Incorporate peer support—make the group culture male-positive, and mental health awareness.
Men have a tendency to prefer solution-focused strategies when encountering problems—it’s the same with mental health. Rather than a general process that looks toward an idea of positivity, set out clear goals. Cognitive behavioural therapy is great for this—the setting of personal goals, and a clear roadmap to achieving them feels good to the male mind.
Using these tips, you should be able to reduce the stigma and clear some mental health issues for some of the men under your care.
CEO and wellbeing expert
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