In England, 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem. Over the years, men have been conditioned to be less in touch with their emotions, or to feel shame or weakness in seeking support. They often feel that they have an image to uphold and discussing their feelings or accessing help may display their ‘weak side’.
However, this should not be the case.
In the UK, 3 out of 4 deaths by suicide are men and in England and Wales, suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-49-year-old men. It’s time that we drop the stigma around men having to be ‘manly’ and allow them to open without fear of judgement.
It can often be tricky to spot the signs of someone struggling, particularly with men as they have become accustomed to not making their emotions known. So, what steps can you take to make sure your friends and loved ones are genuinely okay?
Ask how they are
Men are much less likely to approach a friend and say that they’ve not been feeling themselves. So, if you’ve spotted a change in your friend’s behaviour such as missing social events, being late to work or spending more time down the pub, ask them how they’re doing.
This doesn’t always indicate that they’re struggling but you could let them know that you’ve noticed this behavioural shift and just wanted to check in with them. But remember, most of us use the phrase “I’m fine”, even when we’re not. Don’t be afraid to ask twice, but also don’t be too pushy.
Listen to what they have to say
Do you ever start telling a story or talking about an interest of yours only to be interrupted every few words? Frustrating isn’t it? If your friend has decided to open-up to you, make sure that you give him your full attention without interruptions.
You don’t have to diagnose any problems they may be experiencing, and you shouldn’t feel the need to offer solutions or even give advice. Just be prepared to be all ears and judgement-free.
Movember advise that follow up questions are good to let the speaker know that you’re listening such as “That can’t be easy. How long have you felt that way?”
Depending on the extremity of what you have just heard, there are a number of different ways in which you can encourage your friend to act.
Focusing on the simple things that are easy to control is a great place to start. Are they exercising regularly? Are they sleeping enough? Is his diet well-balanced? Alternatively, is there something that has helped him when he’s felt this way in the past? Small lifestyle changes are an ideal starting point for suggesting ways that your friend can improve how he’s feeling.
Although you cannot force someone to do anything, you could also encourage them to speak with other people that he trusts about how he’s feeling. This will make things easier for you, as you won’t feel solely responsible for making your friend feel better, but also for your friend as he will have a larger support network.
If he’s felt low for more than a couple of weeks, it might also be worth suggesting he sees his doctor.
Check in regularly
Arrange to catch-up again soon, in person if possible. If it isn’t possible then make time for a call or video chat. You can even just drop him a message. All these actions can show your friend that you care while also giving you an idea as to whether he is starting to feel better. Keeping in regular content will allow your friend to not only have a small distraction from his feelings, but it will also enable him to place more trust in you, knowing that you are there to support and help him through his difficult time.
If your friends mental state seems to be declining and you feel that someone’s life is in immediate danger, go directly to emergency services.
Please see below for number of resources that are available to anyone struggling with their mental health:
NHS Mental Health Services – provides information on services available for anyone struggling with their mental health
Mind – provides information and support to make sure no-one has to face a mental health problem alone
Calm – offering support to men in the UK, of any age, who are down or in crisis
Samaritans – provides emotional support to anyone in distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide