Men’s Mental Health - The Importance of Recognising Early Warning Signs

As with all statistics, they’re only as good as the numbers recorded. When it comes to men’s mental health, we can assume that despite the bleak outlook the statistics surrounding it already report, the numbers are actually much higher. Men are notorious for keeping their health concerns to themselves, and this is particularly true regarding their own mental health.

Please note, if your child or someone you know has just attempted suicide, is seriously injured or in a life-threatening condition please call 999 and stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

The information below is not intended as medical advice and is only intended to offer points you may wish to consider in 'non-emergency situations', together with signposting for more support. You should consult an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about your child or someone you know. 

Recent statistics from the Mental Health Foundation

  • One in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Men are three times as likely to die by suicide as women.
  • Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women.
  • Men are nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use.

Why do men often struggle at asking for help with their mental health?

It’s suggested that gender stereotypes may play a role when it comes to men being less likely to seek help. Typically, men are expected to be strong, in control and capable but there’s likely many more factors at play. Mental health tends to creep up on you, gradually affecting an individual more and more over time, and men may initially turn a blind eye, explaining it as a bad couple of days, a bad couple of weeks, or months or possibly even years without facing there’s a real issue there. For many men, discussing emotions isn’t something that comes easily, so acknowledging and talking about a mental health problem could feel unnatural or overwhelming, and initially it may seem easier to try and explain away, rather than face the possibility of treatment.

Recognising the early signs

As with all health conditions, catching something early usually results in a much better outcome for the individual suffering. With mental health it isn’t as simple as connecting the dots together of physical symptoms to find a diagnosis, although physical symptoms do often play a part. It’s often a much more subtle process, with mental health gradually affecting an individual over a long period of time. However, there are a number of ways depression, anxiety, panic attacks and OCD can present themselves, and it’s important to be aware of these potential indicators, as listed from the National Institute of Mental Health.

  • Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
  • Noticeable changes in mood, energy levels or appetite
  • Difficulty in sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty in concentrating and/or feeling restless
  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness, maybe including suicidal thoughts
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • Aches, headaches, digestive problems, without a clear cause

Reading through the above list goes some way into further explaining why men’s mental health issues often go unnoticed for so long as in their earliest forms they are so commonplace.

This puts the focus onto those that know the individual best. Perhaps you’re a sibling, a parent, a close friend or a partner, and the male in your life has adopted a number of the above behaviours over time. If it’s enough to raise questions or concern, then it’s time to open a dialogue with them about their mental health.

How to support a man suffering with a mental health disorder

When trying to support a man – or indeed anyone - who is struggling with their mental health, the key is to consider that person as an individual and tailor your support to suit their specific needs.

Mental health charity MIND puts it simply:

  • Listen
  • Offer reassurance
  • Stay calm
  • Be patient
  • Try not to make assumptions
  • Keep social contact

It might be that you’re able to support in other ways as well. This might include providing information about their condition or support groups, attending appointments with them, or even offering practical help such as childcare, household tasks or shopping.  It’s important to not to pressure that individual, and accept that the best thing you can be is available, even if they don’t want to accept help or talk about their mental health struggles at the present time. 

However, if this person has harmed themselves and needs medical attention, is having suicidal thoughts and feel as though they might act of them, or are putting themselves or someone else in immediate danger, you need to call 999 and request an ambulance, or take them to A&E.

The below resources may prove beneficial at providing both information and support surrounding men’s mental health.