Talking about mental health is hard, so I will begin with some statistics (from 2018):
- In the UK, Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women
- Men aged 45-49 have the highest rate of suicides in the UK
- In Scotland, the suicide rate among 15-24 year-olds increased by 52.7%
- Data is from Samaritans
There are loads more statistics that you can look at if you want to know more, here.
I did a bit of digging and found over and over again that the statistics are always similar. Suicide rates in men are higher than with women.
I’m not an expert. I have my share of experiences with depression and attempted suicide, and that’s where a lot of my thoughts on this topic come from. I just wanted a disclaimer here to say: I am not an expert. My comments on this topic are opinions only. Moving on.
The Two Big Issues
Depression crept into my life and nearly destroyed my future when I was fourteen. I didn’t know I had depression. I didn’t even know what mental health was. I sort of knew about painters and writers talking about being sad or worried, but that was it.
We weren’t educated about mental health in school. We covered the basics of sex, drugs, and alcohol, but mental health was never mentioned.
If I had known about depression, even had a little of an understanding, I think I might have known what I could be suffering from. I could have told my teachers, my parents, and my friends when they asked why I did something stupid. I could have gotten help.
It’s a long and difficult story, but somehow I managed to cope until I went to university, where I finally started learning about depression and other mental health issues. I think it was Matt Haig’s book, Reasons to Stay Alive that opened my eyes. I wasn’t alone, and I could do something about it.
There is a lot of stigma around mental health, but the stigma around men’s mental health is even more damaging.
Men must be strong. Men must hold it together and man-up. Men must never share their feelings – especially to other men.
These expectations are so damaging. Imagine being a man with depression or anxiety and you suddenly feel awful. You can’t get out of bed. You don’t want to eat, drink, or speak to anyone. You’re curled up in a ball in bed because it hurts so much – everything hurts.
How, when you look at those expectations, are you supposed to get better? When pulling yourself together isn’t an option, when talking to someone will confuse them, how will things ever improve?
The future looks hopeless, pointless. That’s what happens. And then those individuals die, because they don’t think there is anything that they can do. They can’t see a way out because no one is telling them that it’s okay, that they can cry, they can be vulnerable, they can ask for help.
Those are the two things that are wrong and need to change before the statistics can. I have a list of things I try to remember every day:
- You are allowed to be weak. Embrace your vulnerability and never apologise for it.
- You are allowed to cry. Sometimes, the best way to feel better is to let it all out.
- Being a man just means being human. You are a person and you have feelings. You are not obligated to be a certain way because of your genitals.
- You are incredible. The fact that you exist, that you are living, breathing, thinking, is one of the most remarkable things about you – never give up.
- The world is bigger than you can imagine – go and see even one part of it and be amazed.
Some links for more information and support:
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Featured Image by Gerd Altmann