According to the Statista Research Department, in 2020 the male suicide rate in the UK, although at its lowest since 1981, was 15.5 deaths per 100,000 men, in comparison to 4.9 deaths per 100,000 women. This makes men three times more likely to die from suicide than women. In the UK, suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. With such large disparities between the suicide rates of men and women, not just nationally, but globally, it is a matter of life and death for our society to figure out exactly why men are killing themselves at such disproportionate rates, and to do our best to tackle root of the issue.
As November is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, we decided to interview four of the men in our lives (two brothers and two friends) about their thoughts on this month, and men's mental health in general.
What does mental health mean to you and how do you view your mental health?
Mohammed, 22: Mental health is important to me, even though I prioritise my physical health, I should definitely consider my mental health as on the same level of importance as my physical. Well, I guess the physical does help the mental to some extent, but I think men’s mental health awareness month helps us think more conscious about our state of mind. As men, we are known for not expressing their feelings, and these pent-up emotions find their way out eventually through breakdowns, bursts of anger, substances abuse...which aren't the healthiest way of dealing with emotions.
Denzel, 26: I think everybody struggles with mental health to some extent. However, I think a true mental health problem is when you find yourself in a hole that’s so profound, so deep, that you can’t see yourself mentally climbing out of this hole. Everyone has some level of depression. I can feel depressed today, and tell myself “You know what, tonight, or tomorrow, I’m going to feel better”. But some people don’t have the ability to even take that step to feel better, even if its just by a millimetre. I think that’s when someone truly needs to get help… when they can’t talk themselves into feeling better, no matter how hard they try. That’s actually a true mental health problem. That’s deep.
I think my mental health is quite good. It’s quite resilient due to challenges I’ve faced in my life, so it’s not something I expect everyone to be able to develop straight away because I understand mental resilience is built through experience. But of course, I’m not going to act like I’m Superman… obviously, there are times when I might be a bit down, but I’ve found a way to strengthen my mental health when I do notice that which is not an easy thing to do, but like I said, that’s through experience.
How often are you asked about how you feel? Do you think men’s feelings need to become more focused on in society?
Alex, 24: I rarely get asked about my mental health but it’s also because I haven’t found that cushion...like the person who I can just say anything to and tell them how I feel 100%.
Yes, men's feelings should be as much of a focus as anything in this world, because men suffer in silence and the worst way to suffer is in silence because your day-to-day seems normal but when alone, the whole world feels like it’s crashing.
Denzel, 26: I’m hardly ever asked about how I feel. I rarely hear, “How do you feel Denzel?”, it’s more like “Yo Denzel, what you up to?”. To be honest, it’s not like I actually want them to ask. However, when I am asked, it’s usually by the same people… mostly by the females in my life: my girlfriend, family members, female friends. I’m not saying that the males don’t ask, but it’s just a once in a while thing. But because males don’t ask as often, when they do, you have to think about the answer a bit more, because it’s not as normalised.
Mohammed, 22: I am in a loving relationship so I get asked quite often, but even then sometimes its hard to talk about it , because sometimes I feel a strong need to just deal with things by myself and not burden anyone.
Alex, 20: I think as a society we’ve become somewhat desensitised to the severity of mental illness in most cases. Even though I may be asked how I’m feeling as few times a day, most people aren’t prepared to have a proper conversation about mental health. So, while I feel there is a desensitisation happening towards the causes and effects of mental illness within society, I also feel like there is stigma towards men talking about their feelings. While I do feel men’s feelings should be focused more on in a society, I also believe that our whole society needs to change for problems to really be addressed. This is particularly true for men within society. Many find it difficult to seek help and understand the symptoms of mental illness and they cast them aside until the problem becomes so severe that they become difficult to address.
What’s your opinion of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month - is it positive; is it necessary?
Denzel, 26: I think Men's Mental Health Awareness Month is very enlightening, because physical health is usually focused on, but not our mental health. It’s good to embrace mental health. However, the negative aspect is that people don’t always have a limit in terms of knowing how to gather mental strength from within. It’s a bit of a catch-22, but overall, it’s good to spread awareness of mental health.
Alex, 20: I do think Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month is necessary but can also be seen as an excuse by some to not deal with the issues all year round and continually address men’s mental health and the causes. So, while it is a positive campaign, a year-round approach that addresses the issues would be more effective in supporting men’s mental health.
So, why is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month so important?
Abbe Mental Health Centre in Iowa, US found that men are also 25% less likely to schedule routine doctor's appointments. According to Dan Louzek, Director of Outpatient Therapy at the centre, there are several societal stigmas that can explain this. He says that men are often viewed as protectors and caretakers, and while this can be a good thing, it can also lead to an "I can do this all on my own mindset." Louzek also argues that men are often told to "tough it out", resulting in suppressed emotions and prevented conversations about both physical and mental illness.
The hope, Louzek says, is that Men's Health Awareness Month makes it easier for men to open up and continue the national conversation about mental health: "We really need to make talking about depression, anxiety, and stress just like any other health issue. [We need] to be able to just to say, you know, 'How is that for you, how is that for you, how can I help you?' Asking the same kind of questions you would with any other issue."
Whatever you’re struggling with, there’s always someone to help. Don’t suffer in silence.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 0800 689 5652.
To find the right kind of therapy for you, you can go through the NHS or check out https://www.betterhelp.com/.