Evidence shows that men can struggle with being open about mental health issues and are
much less likely than women to seek the help they need. Many believe that men have difficulty
seeking help because they are brought up to believe that a ‘real man’ must be tough
independent and emotionally inexpressive. For example, it’s often said that a ‘typical man’
hates asking for directions when he’s lost. There’s some truth in this generalisation.
Even though this image of manliness is impossible to live up to, if a man admits he’s losing
the plot and can’t cope, he probably feels weak and ashamed. He’s also likely to believe that
if he shows his weakness someone will walk all over him. Who needs that?
Feeling isolated adds to the pressure. Eventually, something has to give. A lot of men in this
kind of situation end up at the doctor’s surgery with strange headaches or gut pain and other
unexplained physical symptoms. For some men, appropriate medical treatment from a reliable
GP is enough to get them back on track. But prescription pills (such as Prozac) don’t always
make the anxiety and misery go away, so the doctor might refer you to a psychological
counsellor or therapist who can provide new skills and more effective strategies for living.
No wonder we tend to hide our masculine insecurities. Telling a counsellor about that part of
yourself can be pretty scary if you’ve never really owned up to it before. But the truth is: it’s
not ‘unmanly’ to feel lost or defeated sometimes – it’s just human.
If men do not seek help they can be left in a very vulnerable situation. By bottling things up,
mental distress can get much worse. In addition, some men may vent their distress by getting
angry, becoming violent or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. The results can be devastating:
* Men account for 75 per cent of all suicides.
* Men are three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.
* 95 per cent of the prison population are men.