Please note: This article references suicide data
It’s a legal requirement to take our car for its annual MOT; a general check to ensure everything is in good working order. There is no such requirement to check over our body works, yet our quality of life depends on good physical and mental health.
For this reason, the Men’s Health Forum invites you to undertake a DIY MOT. No need to book an appointment or locate any paperwork, simply follow the 7 Point MOT checks on their website: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/diy-man-mot at a time to suit you.
Men’s Health Week 2022
Men’s Mental Health Week (13-19 June) is a time to focus awareness on common health issues and where to get a second opinion if something doesn’t seem right.
Every one of us is likely to suffer from a health issue at some point; we can’t expect our bodies and minds to always be in high-performance mode. When we get damaged, deflated or notice something unusual, someone with the right tools can help get things back in good working order.
The reason that this week focuses on Men’s Health is two-fold. Firstly, it focuses on specific male health conditions and secondly, it is because data suggests men are less likely to seek help, especially when it comes to mental well-being.
Why Don’t More Men Seek Mental Health Support?
Research carried out by Mind in 2009 and 2019 resulted in the Get it Off Your Chest Report* which revealed patterns, as well as changes in attitudes towards mental well-being.
The good news is that 10 years on from the first study, there was a 12% increase in the number of males who would book an appointment with their GP if they faced prolonged struggles with their mental health. Numbers accessing other forms of support, including looking up information online, talking to friends and family or speaking to a counsellor also increased.
Greater awareness of mental well-being, workplace mental health training and celebrities opening up about mental health struggles have helped more to no longer feel they are alone.
On the flip side, men are still less likely to recognise the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and feel the expectation to ‘man up’ if they do. Coping mechanisms are more likely to take the form of a drink or two at the pub, rigorous physical activity, recreational drugs or antisocial behaviour than speaking with someone.
There is embarrassment about seeking help and fear about treatment and being judged. This is higher in groups that often face higher levels of discrimination including Black men and the LGBTQIA+ community. These fears are justified when you look at the facts. Did you know that black men are four times more likely than white men to be detained under the Mental Health Act?
The tendency to bottle up feelings to avoid embarrassment and stigma means that men are considerably more likely to die by suicide than women. Since the mid-1990s around three-quarters of all deaths by suicide are men. In 2019, it was 77% of 5,691 recorded suicides in England & Wales (ONS data).
What Would Encourage More Men to Access Health Support?
The Get it Off Your Chest Report identified some key barriers, which provide valuable insight into what needs to change. The following three steps are critical:
1. Access to Online Support
There is a strong preference for accessing information online. The following websites include useful information and support services, particularly for those with concerns about their (or a mate’s) mental health:
- CALM – https://www.thecalmzone.net/
- Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
- Men’s Health Forum – https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/
- Mind the Men (Scotland) – https://mindthemen.co.uk/
2. Guaranteed Anonymity
Being in control of what they share and feeling confident that it will go no further is of vital importance. Whether talking with a friend, GP or therapist or researching information online, they have to trust that it will not get out.
3. Access to Services at Convenient Places and Times
Men revealed that they would be more likely to seek advice and support if services were easy to access in non-medical settings. In some areas, support services were particularly thin on the ground and nothing is more of a barrier than when it becomes difficult or complicated to speak to someone.
Spotting the Signs of Poor Health
Spotting the signs of ill-health is the first step to turning things around. We all have good and bad days, but sustained symptoms and changes in behaviour are good indicators that not all is right. Common changes include:
- Unusual aches and pains, lumps or moles
- Disrupted sleep
- Noticeable dip in energy and motivation
- Changes to eating (and alcohol drinking) habits
- More easily irritated and angered
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Increased consumption of alcohol and/or drugs
There are many other signs and symptoms, so if you notice that you aren’t yourself or your partner, colleague or mate is acting out of character, it is time to take action. Someone simply being there when times are tough can make all the difference.
Further information on Men’s Health Week and Men’s Mental Health