Research from the mental health charity Mind has revealed that men are feeling increasingly anxious and depressed, and consequentially are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than they did ten years ago.
One in ten men replied in the survey that they have had suicidal feelings when feeling anxious or depressed, up from one in twenty in 2009. And that they are also regularly feeling anxious or depressed.
Comparisons between genders shows that just under half of men (43%) admitted to regularly feeling worried or low, and 10% reported suicidal thoughts; compared to over half (53%) of women who reported feeling worried or low, and 7% who reported suicidal thoughts. Through the report's analysis, this data viewed over the last decade demonstrates a concerning trend; the rate of the increase of anxiety and depression for men is now double that of women, but also suicidal thoughts for women have increased threefold.
- See also: ‘Talking about men’s mental health and suicide’
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- See also: ‘An introduction to depression’
- See also: ‘I urgently need help’
Suicidal thoughts double for men and increase three-fold for women over the last decade
While social media has been popular for more than a decade, its influence on our lives seems to be detrimentally snowballing with over a third of men (37%) replying that social media has had a negative impact on how they feel, which may be further reflected in that the number of men who are worried about their appearance has risen to 23% from the 18% in 2009.
Data also showed that men are still more likely to resort to potentially damaging coping mechanisms such as drinking alone, going to the pub with friends, or taking recreational drugs to relax when dealing with difficult emotions. Moreover, men are still more likely to act out their emotions rather than internalise them. This can be problematic if this can take the form of disruptive anti-social behaviour which can lead to their point of contact with mental health services being more likely to be within the criminal justice system.
Especially for men from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic Community, this is a systemic problem, due to the lack of adequate services and racist perceptions of aggressiveness. Therefore men from these communities are even more likely to have mental health interventions at a point of crisis, involving the police. Naturally, these experiences are often painful and frightening, rather than supportive – and disproportionally involve detention under the Mental Health Act, as well as the use of restraints.
Although a more positive trend was also identified in that men are now almost three times more likely to seek support from a therapist than in 2009, and their preferred alternatives to medication are face-to-face therapy and physical activity. To improve their access to therapy men reported that they would be more likely to seek support if it were made available online and if they were guaranteed anonymity when they did.
Key recommendations included in the report for the UK Government were:
- The Government should commit to developing a cross-party mental health strategy to examine the impact of material factors such as housing, welfare, and criminal justice on mental health outcomes.
- Further research is necessary on men’s mental health behaviours.
- Funding is required to continue anti-stigma campaigns such as Time to Change and to support preventative mental health support and agencies in communities.
- There needs to be a continued focus on male suicide is the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
- The Government should urgently publish its White Paper in response to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Men still tell us that they struggle to get the help they need for their mental health. Sometimes they don’t know where to go for help or what’s on offer might not be suitable for them. The challenges facing men are likely to be compounded by the pandemic as well as the economic recession, not least because we know that men’s mental health tends to be more affected by unemployment.”
“Our survey suggests that a wider range of options might be needed, such as physical activity and social activities, alongside access to talking therapies and medication. Ultimately, men are still three times as likely to take their own life their own life as women, so there is much more to do to make sure men can ask for help and can get the right support when they need it and before reaching crisis point.”