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Understanding men's mental health

Your experience with mental health can depend on your genetics, life experiences, socioeconomic status, gender, and more. In short, it’s different for everyone.

For many men, understanding and managing mental health can be particularly challenging.

Let’s learn about men’s mental health, why we don’t talk about it enough, and what you can do to keep your mental health in check and look out for the men in your life.

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A picture of men's mental health

A 2019 survey estimated that 24.5% of women experienced a mental health problem compared to 16.3% of men.ref1  

Looking at these statistics, it seems like fewer men are living with mental health problems.

But when we look closer, we see these numbers don’t tell the whole story:

  • 76% of suicides in the UK are by men.ref2
  • Men are nearly 3 times more likely to become alcohol dependent than women.ref3
  • Men are more likely to use and die from illegal drugs.ref4

Are men struggling with mental health in silence?

Why aren’t men talking about mental health?

From my experience as a doctor, men find it particularly hard to open up and discuss their mental health. This is often due to social pressures and mental health stigma.

The old-fashioned idea that masculinity is about being strong and in control can mean that some men see reaching out for help as a weakness. And we see it in the statistics: In the UK, only 36% of referrals to psychological services are for men.ref5

Men may also find it harder to recognize mental health symptoms in themselves. That means they’re even less likely to reach out for support when they need it.ref6

What can you do?

Here are 6 tips for keeping your mental health in check and looking out for the men in your life. 

Bear in mind these tips don’t only work for men. They can help you take care of yourself regardless of your gender.

Talk to your doctor

If you’re struggling with your mental health, speak to your doctor. It can seem daunting, but it’s your doctor’s job to know about these things, and it’s your best first step towards feeling better.

Be open

We all have ups and downs in mental health, so there's no reason to feel embarrassed about it. Talking it through with your friends, family, and colleagues can make you feel much better. Being open also helps normalize conversations about mental health.

Spend time with your loved ones

Personal relationships are so crucial for your mental health. That’s especially true for people with depression.ref7

Exercise

Moving your body releases endorphins in your brain that can improve your well-being and help you feel better about yourself. Exercise is also proven to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.ref8

Join a mental health support group

Sharing your experiences with other people in the same situation can provide emotional support. You’ll also learn skills to help you manage your mental health and make new friends along the way. 

Look out for the men around you

If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, reach out. A quick message can go a long way. Listen closely and offer your support. Encourage them to get help from a medical professional if they need it and offer to go to appointments with them if they’re nervous. 

Finally, it’s important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So make time to care for your mind as you do for your body.

Until next time, take care of yourself.

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  1. NIMH. “Mental Illness.” Accessed May 2021.

  2. Men’s Health Forum. “Key Data: Mental Health.” Accessed May 2021.

  3. hscic. “Statistics on Alcohol.” Accessed May 2021.

  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services.” Accessed May 2021.

  5. NHS Mid Essex CCG. “Men’s Health Week.” Accessed May 2021.

  6. NIMH. “Men and Depression.” Accessed May 2021.

  7. Wang, J., et al. BMC Psychiatry, (2018), doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1736-5.

  8. Cooney, G., et al. JAMA, (2014), doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.4930.

Writer:

Cesare Paolino
Dr. Cesare Paolino

Dr. Paolino is one of Ada’s Medical Knowledge Engineers.