What makes men get help for mental health?

This article considers how and why men seek help for their mental health, what services exist and what the key factors are to make them as accessible as possible.  It ends by looking at my 5S model of mental health help for men, showing us what this should ideally look like.

It look me a long time to get help.  I went for years of feeling increasingly unwell, tired, angry, paranoid and having regular suicidal thoughts before my body made me stop and take notice.

Part of me acknowledged that things weren’t right, but I didn’t really do anything to try and change the situation.  I just lived miserably, dragging myself through the day.

I know professionally that many men lead similar lives in misery, feeling trapped and not knowing what to do.  Sadly some have felt that things are so hard that they have tried to end their lives by suicide.

My personal and professional experiences have informed my view that there’s multiple stages to seeking help, from learning about how you feel, looking after yourself, knowing what is not healthy and asking for help.  Today I’m going to focus on what helps men to make that step from being without help to taking that step into seeking help.

What help exists currently for men and their mental health?

There are multiple sources of help men can seek about their mental health.  In the most extreme circumstances organisations like CALM, and the Samaritans offer people help when they don’t know where to go.  Men can use these sources of help often in an emergency where they are having thoughts of making plans of trying to die by suicide.

There are also organisations like Men’s sheds and Andy’s Man’s Club, or the men’s circle movement which offer safe spaces for men to be around other men, allowing sharing of stories, and recognising that we aren’t alone.

The NHS also has routes to help, including seeing your GP, who can offer things like time off work, being heard and understood, or medication.   Talking therapies such as CBT can also be accessed by men, often without the need for booking an appointment.

Workplaces are currently seeking to improve the mental health of their men, recognising this is important in a productiove workplace.  Educational talks and Workshops can help men to better understand themselves and take meaningful action about their lives.

Many men rely on friendship or family members to describe how they feel also.  This can be a great source of support. 

What are the barriers to seeking help?

When men are asked about why they seek help, and why they don’t, they mention multiple things.

Stigma, or what I prefer to call Negative Male Masculinity tells us that we should be mentally and physically strong, solve our own problems, not show emotions (perhaps except anger or aggression), and be successful independent of others.  The knock on effect is that speaking to someone else can be internally viewed as sign of weakness.

One classic example of this is men getting drunk in a pub together, where something will ‘slip out’ during the evening – a relationship ending, death of a loved one.  I’ve found myself doing this in the past, and friends have done the same with me.  The problem with this approach is that it quickly gets hidden away again, associated with the shame of mentioning it, making it harder to do something productive about it

Research from Mind tells us that for some men the process of accessing help from the NHS can put men off.  Doctors themselves, or a Diagnosis of mental health issues can put men off, as can Tablets, Talking Therapies and Time off work.  We know men are more likely to use annual leave to recover than take sick leave.

Men’s groups sound great, as they address some of the above issues.  But men have to get there in the first place, so they have to know about they exist.  Provision is gradually improving

Cost can also put men off.  Men can be financially concerned about the cost of using services, so free services can be preferred.  Men may also be reluctant to invest in themselves.  This is certainly something I have struggled with

One final thing is the language which is being used.  Men can find the language of mental health off-putting and disempowering.

The 5S model for men’s mental health services

So, what does a service for men’s mental health look like?   This what I call the 5S model for helping men. It’s based on various sources including work from the Men’s Health Forum

  1. Safe – trust people there, have a relationship with them, or be recommended from a trusted source e.g. GP.  Also not be based on alcohol.
  2. See – the man knows it is there, what it does, where it is, how much it costs, and this is appropriate to the man involved (e.g. work, online, gym, outdoors etc)
  3. Solve – Offer a solution which is positive, meaningful, engaging, relevant, practical and acceptable.
  4. Star – seeing those who have been through similar things and overcome them, positive role models & others being positive about masculinity.
  5. Speak – the right language, finding a balance between the technical language of mental health

So, these are my thoughts about how to help men seek help.  Let me know what you think below.  Have I missed anything? 

If you’d like to know how I can help you, please contact me.

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