We have written before about the difficulties men face when they are experiencing mental health issues. It is nearly a year since we wrote of the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation in Boys Don’t Cry and since then we have seen periodic moves to raise awareness of suicides amongst young men, for example. Yet the situation hardly seems to change.
So why do men find it harder to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties, often so serious that they are considering ending it all? Is it that their issues relate specifically to being male?
There is still, even in the 21st century, an expectation that the man is the one on whom others rely. He will sort out problems, practical or otherwise. From toddlerhood a boy is discouraged from expressing his emotions in a healthy way – ‘boys don’t cry” or ‘act like a man’ are phrases many still hear, and thus when they are faced with problems they can’t solve, perhaps in young adulthood, they are more likely to feel they have failed as a man. A culture of silence amongst their contemporaries means few of them realise how common these feelings are.
Jane Gotto, Director here at The Terrace, says:
“Yes, men are at a crossroads and the question of how to be a ‘good man’ has changed and the parameters are different. Mainly our culture does still support the expectation that men should be strong, shouldn’t cry, nor share feelings of being vulnerable or having difficulty. This leaves some men without a way to process their feelings, or even acknowledge what’s happening for them, which can create isolation and alienation. From there, the difficulty can escalate with other behaviours to cover the difficult feelings – increased drinking, excessive work or exercise, sexualised behaviour, drugs etc…”
Research has suggested that men sometimes feel better taking part in active therapy, such as art, music or horticultural sessions rather than direct one to one therapy sessions. It was also deemed important to ensure men didn’t have to take time off work to attend sessions as work was something that held many together, and when working in a stereotypically macho atmosphere many were reluctant to express their feelings openly. Some felt that mental health services were geared around ‘women’s problems’ and whether true or not that has to be a perception that is changed if we are to see any progress.
From the articles and reports that have come out in recent months it is clear that there are specific issues men struggle with, including drinking increased amounts of alcohol and other addictive behaviours. The Charter for Sport and Recreation works to remove the stigma around men’s mental health by raising awareness of the problems well-known sports stars have faced. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff and footballer Clarke Carlisle have been frank about their problems, and now we regularly hear leaders in their sporting fields speaking about mental health. But there is still much work to be done. Jane Gotto says:
“22 years ago, when I founded The Terrace, very few men sought counselling support. This has significantly changed with men seeking support for themselves and for their relationships in more recent years. Some men have been able to carve out a supportive network with mind liked men. However encouraging this is, more needs to be provided and more needs to be said.”
In 2015, a documentary was shown on BBC3 in which Stephen Manderson, better known as British rap artist Professor Green, allowed cameras to follow him as he sought to find out why his father had committed suicide eight years ago. Manderson said:
“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life……It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”
He went on:
“The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it…. it is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”
Manderson (Professor Green) went on to make a second program, showing where people can get support, including the work of The Maytree, a centre where people can go when they have suicidal feelings.
In an article about the documentary, published in The Guardian on 27th October last year, Rory O’Connor, professor at Glasgow University, highlighted the deep-rooted nature of male suicide:
“The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family…..Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”
If you would like more information about the support available to men, and women, with mental health issues, these links are a good place to start.
Many offer a helpline if you fear you are reaching a crisis point.
For young people: Young Minds
There is also an excellent report, referred to in this article, which offers an overview of men’s mental health services. It is called Delivering Male and to download simply click on the link to download a copy.
The link to Professor Green’s program can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGjlPACQC6Y&app=desktop
Do also feel free to call us here at The Terrace on 01823 338968. We have a number of counsellors particularly skilled in dealing with the issues mentioned in this article and we would be pleased to discuss matters, in confidence of course.