Why men won’t talk about their Mental Health

Priory.com is a leading independent provider of behavioral care in the UK.

Following International Men’s Day in 2015, they surveyed 1000 men to uncover men’s attitudes towards their own mental health.

The reasons they surveyed why men don’t talk about their mental health were:
⦁ I’ve learned to deal with it (40%)
⦁ I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone (36%)
⦁ I’m too embarrassed (29%)
⦁ There’s negative stigma around this type of thing (20%)
⦁ I don’t want to admit I need support (17%)
⦁ I don’t want to appear weak (16%)
⦁ I have no one to talk to (14%)

I’ve learned to deal with it

From my experience, this was one of the worst things I did and it turns out I thought I was dealing with it but soooo wasn’t. I just shut it away.

For me this subject also extends to issues happening in my life not just my mental health. For example, when my parents split, I just dealt with it whilst looking after my mum. I now know I didn’t deal with it and just added it to the pile.

I’ve lived much of my adult life by the mantra “there’s always someone else worse off than me”. Which whilst true, meant I never processed or dealt with anything that was going on.

I guess the statement “I’ve learned to deal with it” is our way of convincing ourselves we don’t need to talk about things.

Someone told me that we are like a dam. The stronger the dam the more water it can hold behind it. But as more and more water builds up the dam starts to show cracks until eventually it breaks. The more water behind the dam, just like our issues, the more there is to deal with when it breaks.

I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone

With this one, I don’t think I can remember specifically not wanting to be a burden to anyone, but after some head scratching thinking about what to type here, I guess this is linked to my issue with the mantra above, “there’s always someone else worse off than me”.

If I was convincing myself to just get on with things and not make a deal of anything, could this mean I didn’t also want to be a burden?

I wonder what you think about this point?

I’m too embarrassed

This one got me thinking…yes this was something that stopped me from talking about my mental health. However I wondered what it was I was embarrassed about?

I guess I was embarrassed because I was very self conscious about what people would think. Once you start down this road you start imagining what certain people will think, say and how they will act. At this point I’ve created a whole world in my head of negativity aimed towards myself, helllloooooo?! It’s a lot easier now to recognise this but the key point to remember here is its in my head, it’s not actually happened. This point is so important but when I was in the depth of my depression I couldn’t see this!

Then I told myself “NO, it doesn’t matter what other people think”, turns out I cared a lot more about what people think than I thought.

There’s negative stigma around this kind of thing

Wow I think I could talk for hours on this subject…but you’ll be pleased to know I wont.

I’m a big fan of counselling if you feel comfortable doing it. I really had to force myself at the start but would never try to force someone to go.

Aaaaanyway…I’ve gone off at a tangent but there is a reason. From counselling, I learned that I treat others better than I treat myself when it comes to how I feel about mental health.

I genuinely believe if I was supporting someone with mental health issues, I would feel empathy for them, I would think they were being so strong by talking about it and trying to do something about it. HOWEVER, when it came to me, it made me feel weak, ashamed and crazy like there was something really wrong with me. Also all the stereotypical views such as “men don’t cry” “men are strong and don’t talk about their problems so just get on with it”.

There is clearly a lot of great work being carried out by lots of great people to break the stigma attached to mental health – and long may this continue! It has to!

However I started thinking (whenever I say that out loud my wife will say “have you got a headache?” ber dum tshhh) and is stigma still there because:

⦁ People need educating?

⦁ It’s just an age thing? Will stigma disappear when our kids grow up more aware of mental health and wont have old school almost sexist beliefs driven into them?

⦁ What can be done about stigma if I was attaching it to my mental health when I knew better, I mean I was having huge issues with mental health at the time, for flips sake!!! (I’ve learned to substitute swear words with replacement words like ‘flip’ and ‘Sugar Honey Ice Tea!!! The joys of having young children).

I’d be interested to hear your views on this one.

I know I promised not to go on too long with his one so I’ll move on.

I don’t want to admit I need support

Does this one depend on your definition of support? I wonder if for men, there is a difference here between support from their close family or friends and support from a medical professional?

This is a bit of a catch 22 for me.

I didn’t want to admit I needed support, but probably because that would have meant a) admitting I had an issue, and b) to get support you have to tell someone.

I certainly find it easier to talk to someone I don’t know about my mental health issues. But I also got lots of benefits from finally talking to close family and friends, the main one being that it brought us all closer together.

I don’t want to appear weak

We are Men, we are Strong, we are Tough, we are Powerful!!!

Where do these views come from? Our dads, our grandads, our great grandads? Are we being indirectly sexist by saying men can’t appear weak…but it is ok for women

Let’s look back to the dam analogy I used earlier on. A big strong dam can hold back tonnes more water than a small weak dam. But just think about this. The big strong dam can deal with so much water because it is strong. But when the storms come and the water levels rise, it starts to crack. If we are able to spot the cracks we can take action to patch them back up. But if we can’t spot the cracks , or ignore the warnings, then the damage caused by a big strong dam is significantly more than the damage caused by a small weak dam breaking.

Personally I beat myself up by telling myself I was weak so I didn’t want people to know about what was going on in my head.

But if we think about the dam, cracks can start in the strongest of us, which is why its so important to spot the signs and not ignore what’s going on inside our heads. It’s not weak, it takes real strength.

I have no one to talk to

This one is actually heartbreaking to think of. Not in a patronising way at all, but there are so many options out there for us to all reach out and the consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.

If you are reading this and thinking you have nobody to talk to, please please please speak to somebody. Message me here on the “Contact” page on this site. Call one of the many confidential free phone numbers out there, including the Samaritans. Another option is going to talk to your GP. You are not alone in this and though it may seem like the hardest thing in the world, you will get better, you will be happy again.

For me it wasn’t that I didn’t have anyone to talk to, it was more a case of admitting to myself that I had a problem and the finding the courage to tell someone.

The views and thoughts above are simply what I have experienced or my points of view.

I am wondering what your thoughts are on any of this?

What are you doing today to live your best life?

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