Mental Health: A Male Perspective
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
‘Strong and silent type’, ‘Be a man’. ‘Boys don’t cry.’ These are all expressions we will have heard over the years in relation to the power and prowess of men.
Alas, it is also widely acknowledged that some men have never been encouraged to speak about their emotional state. As human beings, we will all feel vulnerable at some point of time. MIND the charity are specifically encouraging men to talk about their feelings.
It has been argued that the very state of male mental health can be very described as fragile indeed. Thus some of the statistics will now be relevant to enable a better understanding of the extent of male mental health.
37 per cent of men are feeling worried or low. Men account for 75 per cent of suicides. Only 23 per cent of men would see their GP if they felt low for over a fortnight. Men were only half as likely to talk to friends about problems as women. 31 per cent of men would feel embarrassed about seeking help for mental distress.
It is crucial to raise awareness via the media in the promotion of male mental health. More significantly, Mind is setting out to call upon members of society to highlight the issues with their respective MP’s.
Essentially Mind will be calling on the government to develop a mental health strategy for males; a female mental health strategy already exists. What is important is the fact that what need consideration are the different ways men experience mental health and also the different ways that they are fundamentally treated.
One mans journey is explained under the umbrella of ‘Men and mental health: first person. MIND covers Derek’s experience. For the past 20 years as a result of suffering depression Derek has been on anti-depressants, he did not want to take the tablets simply because he would have to acknowledge the fact that he was suffering from mental illness. Being a male compounded the problem as there was also stigma surrounding the issues of mental health. He goes on to say, ‘I thought admitting to having a mental illness was a sign of weakness especially given my cultural back ground.
Refusing to face up to my problems did not help and I spent over three years in a very dark depressed state. I barely left the house and just sat at home and vegetated. Thanks to the help of my wonderful mum and sister, plus a very supportive GP, I realised that unless I made a change I would be stuck at home for the rest of my life. I started to take my antidepressants and also began to attend counselling at my local Mind association in Hackney.
With that in mind and two years down the line, Derek’s life has changed greatly. In attending his local MIND association, by his own admission has built up his own personal self-esteem and given him some valuable direction. He is now able to chair any of the MIND meetings.
However a pattern can be seen to emerge, when we discuss Steve’s plight. He was suffering from clinical depression. He was once a head teacher at a primary school. His diagnosis, he found was very difficult to accept, specifically that he had a mental health problems. Notwithstanding, he still struggles with this aspect.
Some days, he says to himself, ‘you’re not mentally ill, you just need to pull yourself together.’ As men we are supposed to be able to cope, to survive and manage all the things that life throws at us.
After visiting the drop in centre at my local Mind association I realised that I was not alone, lots of people have mental health problems and there is no shame in that.
I am now enrolled in a cognitive behavioural therapy course at my local Mind association and I have access to all the information I need to help me if I start to feel low again.’
He also accepts that he will have some good days along with the bad.