The current landscape of men’s mental health is a stark one:
- Men are three times more likely to commit suicide
- Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
- Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women
- Only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men
- 1 in 8 men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
With 16.9 deaths in 100,000 males in England and Wales, male suicide is one of the biggest threats to men. Unrealistic beauty standards, pervasive toxic behaviours and ambivalent attitudes towards mental health combined with poor diets and alcohol consumption make this an unavoidable crisis.
Men’s health is a big topic and not one that we can solve in one blog post, nor do we attempt to. At hasta, we work with leading experts in men’s health to destigmatise a range of issues from mental health and physical wellbeing to hair loss and ageing. Some of these things may not sound life-threatening, but for some men, hair loss and premature ageing can have a debilitating impact on mental health. Given the intense aesthetic scrutiny and expectations men are under, the shocking statistics around men’s health come as no surprise.
“Men are always under scrutiny and in many respects, they should be. But when it comes to empathy, emotional intelligence and appearance, men are under immense pressure to look a certain way. We are also programmed by external and internal influences to project a powerful, unemotive persona. Unless we redefine masculinity, the stigma around mental health and toxic traits will remain in society,” notes hasta Director of Wellbeing, Dylan Salamon.
Toxic masculinity is something we are all familiar with: ‘boys will be boys’; ‘real men don’t cry’ and ‘man up’ are all common and inescapable phrases attached to men. The term ‘toxic masculinity’ is so ubiquitous that arguably, it is misrepresenting what is causing the issue. People are now blaming societal behaviours on toxic masculinity rather than looking at the established institutions that encourage and normalise them.
Print media, alcohol industries, reality TV, social media, gym culture, engrained and learned social behaviours towards emotional vulnerability all contribute to the complex picture of men’s health.
“No one is immune to societal pressures and nearly all men bend to these at the cost of their own authentic self and identity”, says mindset and life coach Ben Bidwell. Specialising in destigmatising men’s mental health, Bidwell helps men work through a system that is built for ‘one size fits all’ but in actuality, fits barely any.
“Why should we be silent about things that bother us? Mental health is relative, a small thing to you may be crippling to another. Talking more, being open and authentic helps to normalise all aspects of being a man. Erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation are the most common male sexual disorders, so why is it taboo? It’s because society has inflated masculinity to hyper proportions; anything wrong with our penis means we just aren’t man enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth. All men’s health is a men’s health issue and should be normalised. It’s down to us to start the conversation. If we’re comfortable others will follow.”
Just like women, society dictates men aren’t supposed to age and are expected to be strong and able to endure physical challenges regardless of age. “Just like women, society dictates men aren’t supposed to age and are expected to be strong and able to endure physical challenges regardless of age. “I had a hip replacement at 34” notes Joel Burgess, expert mentor and life coach. “Society expects men to be physically infallible – but that’s just not the case. I worked incredibly hard on the rugby field and in the gym, and absolutely never expected my body to react this way in my early 30’s.”
“When we raise our standards, our beliefs change and perceptions change; subsequently changing our behaviour and creating new evidence of the person we want to become. This is the attitude we need to take with men’s health and all it encompasses. We need to set a standard, a benchmark for how we behave, interact and express ourselves rather than try and achieve a fictional expectation,” says Burgess
This Movember, reflect on your current state: what’s on your mind, what’s affecting your body and find someone to talk to about it with. You may need professional advice or just a friend. The biggest factor that compounds poor mental health among men is the feeling of isolation.
You are not alone. Start a conversation, normalise your feelings, allow yourself to be emotionally expressive and connect with others around you.