Men are often underrepresented in some mental health services such as talking therapy services but overrepresented in others, such as forensic mental health and addiction services.
There are many reasons for this, both in terms of interpersonal factors for men such as shame, lack of help-seeking behaviour and external factors such as stigma, loss of income, responsibilities and family roles etc.
Most research in gender and mental health supports two findings: (a) men and women have approximately equal rates of disorders overall (Rosenfield & Smith, 2009) and (b) men and women tend to experience different kinds of psychiatric illnesses (Rosenfield & Mouzon, 2013)
Females tend to present with “internalising” types of disorders such as depression and anxiety, while “externalising” difficulties such as aggressive behaviour, substance abuse, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Jackson & King, 2004) are seen in higher rates amongst males. In addition, men are:
Three times as many men as women die by suicide.
Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.
Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women according to the Government’s national wellbeing survey.
Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men.
Nearly three-quarters of adults who go missing are men.
87% of rough sleepers are men.
Men are nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use.
Men are more likely to be compulsorily detained (or ‘sectioned’) for treatment than women.
Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime (1.5 more likely than women).
Men make up the vast majority of the prison population. There are high rates of mental health problems and increasing rates of self-harm in prisons.
Men often hide psychological problems and are reluctant to report symptoms (O’Brien, Hunt, & Hart, 2005) the reasons for this are many and varied but include; stigma around seeking support, uncertainty about what type of help is available, social and cultural determinants such as identity, family dynamics and financial constraints might mean that men ‘get on with it’ and cope as best as they can rather than seek support, often only reaching services when they are in crisis. Men may be the sole breadwinner and can not take time out to seek support or they may have concerns around how their family and friends might experience their help-seeking if they were to find out.
Despite the fact that three to four times more men than women commit suicide (19 vs. 5.1 per 100,000; ONS, 2015), men do not seek psychological help as much as women do (Addis & Mahalik, 2003. There may be some barriers to men seeking support and accessing talking therapy support when they experience difficulties. Men seek general medical care far less often than women (Oliver et al., 2005). Societal expectations and traditional gender roles play a role in why men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP BY TALKING TO SOMEONE:
Accessing support can be daunting but it need not be. You can find out what therapy might be like by speaking with your GP. They will have a no-pressure discussion with you regarding what it entails, taking the time to run through the benefits and risks. Therapy provides a safe and confidential space for you to talk to a trained professional about your issues and concerns. You can find out what therapy entails by visiting the NHS webpage.
UNDERSTAND AND EXPLORE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF THERAPY
Therapy doesn’t just have to be the often daunting thought of two people sitting in a room talking about your feelings, it can be done digitally now allowing you to speak confidently with a qualified therapist via a chat service or you can pick up the phone. It’s key that you explore the different types of therapy and find what one works best for you.
TALK THROUGH ANY THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS. NONE OF THEM ARE TOO SMALL, STUPID OR SHAMEFUL.
Your therapy is there to support you and they will take the time to understand your concerns. Therapy is non-judgemental and a safe space for you to explore your concerns. It is confidentiality and like most relationships takes a level of commitment to get the most out of it.
SCHEDULE SESSIONS AT A GOOD TIME
It’s key that you fit your sessions in at a time that works for you, it’s probably not best to do this at the end of a working day. You need to be in a place where you have the mental space to be present and feel ready to work on yourself. Prioritising your own needs above of others, like your family may seem hard but sometimes we have to put ourselves first
VIEW THERAPY AS A COLLABORATION
Therapy isn’t just a sport where you sit and watch. Your therapy sessions are a journey to wellness and it’s a team effort, you can see the therapist as a coach who’s helping to train you in getting mentally fitter. They can help you help yourself, so taking the time to focus on yourself is important
UNDERSTAND IT TAKES TIME
Unfortunately, therapy is not a miracle cure to all life’s problems. One session isn’t going to fix all of your concerns. It’s OK to get frustrated if you’re not seeing the benefits straight away, but the key here is to open up and talk about that. Perhaps you can work towards setting some smaller goals to work towards. Sometimes things do get difficult before they get better but sticking with it and attending all of the sessions will lead to a better outcome
KEEP A JOURNAL IN BETWEEN YOUR SESSIONS
It might not be something that you have done before, and it may seem unusual but the truth is that it actually really helps. Not only does it help your therapist understand what to work on with you, but it also helps you keep an eye out on the different challenges you face. You can easily track your thoughts, feelings and stressors with the Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app.
I FEEL A BIT ANXIOUS TALKING TO A FEMALE THERAPIST
We have male and female therapists and can usually meet requests for male or female therapists. All of our therapists are trained and supervised and have experience in working with men and men’s health.
I’M UNSURE IF THERAPY IS RIGHT FOR ME AT THE MOMENT, CAN I TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT?
We understand taking the first step to start therapy can be daunting and you may have a lot of questions. You can chat confidentiality with one of our therapists to understand what therapy is like, what you can expect from it and how it might be able to help you. The therapist will help you find your own solutions or current concerns, this might mean making changes to something in your life or talking about different ways of coping.