Men and mental health

Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or social background. However, studies have shown that certain mental illnesses affect men and women differently.

While on average more women are diagnosed with common mental health problems than men, the rate of male suicide is significantly higher.

This suggests that men are suffering with mental distress, but may not be receiving (or indeed asking for) the help they need.

At any one time it is believed that one in five women (19.7%) and one in eight men (12.5%) are diagnosed with a common mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

According to the Men’s Health Forum, 73% of adults who ‘go missing’ are men and 87% of those sleeping rough are men. They also found that men are almost three times more likely than women to become dependent on alcohol and three times as likely to report frequent drug use.

Depression in men

Depression is often found to be more difficult to diagnose in men. This is because men don’t tend to complain about the typical symptoms, more often than not, it’s the physical symptoms of depression that lead them to visit their doctor.

According to, the lifetime rate of depression is 12% in women and 8% in men. This marked difference could however be due to fewer men seeking help for depression.

Men and suicide

The main reason experts suspect more men are affected by mental health problems than is reported is the high number of male suicide.

Statistics compiled by the Men’s Health Form (July 2014) reveal the following:

  • 78% of all suicides are men
  • For men under 35, suicide is the greatest cause of death

A 2012 study carried out by The Samaritans looked into the factors that might help to explain why certain groups of men are more likely than women to commit suicide.

Middle-aged men particularly at risk

Two important risk factors found were age and socioeconomic status with middle-aged men are particularly at risk, with numbers of suicides in males aged 45-59 increasing over the last five years.

Middle-aged men today face being in two very different generations, the pre-war ‘silent’ and the post-war ‘me’ generation. This means they may feel stuck somewhere between the strong, silent male stereotype of their father’s generation and the more progressive and open generation of their son’s.

On top of this, middle age is a time when the weight of previous long-term decisions reveal themselves. Making changes can come with a hefty cost, financially and socially. Feeling trapped under choices made earlier in life can seriously compromise mental well-being.

How can counselling help?

The high rate of male suicide points to a concern that men are less willing to seek therapy than women. So, why is this? Experts agree that it is likely to be a combination of factors, from society’s expectation of ‘men’ to a desire to solve one’s own problems.

Mental health charities and the media have looked to change the stigma surrounding mental health and particularly the stigma of asking for support. The truth is, all of us need the support of others at some point in our lives – regardless of gender.

Talking to a professional is a way to take back control. You will be able to work with your counsellor to establish healthier ways of thinking and devise coping mechanisms.  Taking that first step should never be considered a moment of weakness – instead, it shows true strength of character.

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