Men’s Mental Health Week – Where to Look For Help When You’re Struggling?

Men’s Mental Health

Men’s mental health is getting more attention – this is important, because traditionally men have felt its not ok to talk about not being ok. Ideas of what it is to ‘be a man’, to ‘man-up’, to be a ‘fighter’, to support others rather than seek help, that it’s a ‘weakness’ to feel sad or anxious, have been around a long time and have left a lot of men unable to identify when they’re struggling and access support.

Health data tells us that 1 in 4 women will struggle with a mental health issue at any one time, but only 1 in 8 men will. Is this accurate, or is it a reflection of how difficult it is for men to ask for help, or perhaps even to notice when they’re struggling? We know that men present less often to their GP than women for physical health issues, and that the stigma about mental health issues can make many men feel ashamed and fearful about asking for help. 

40% of men say it would take experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm for them to ask for help. This is a serious problem. Sadly, although only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies services are from men, 75% of all deaths by suicide are men, and suicide is the highest cause of death in men under 50. Men are also 3 times more likely than women to rely on drugs or alcohol to manage difficulties.

What does ‘be a man’ mean?

Research suggests that cultural norms about masculinity create barriers for men in noticing they are struggling with their mental health, and in seeking help. Men may feel a need for control and self-reliance, may minimize their problems and feel distrustful of caregivers, may seek privacy and tend to value being in control of their emotions. All of this makes asking for help feel uncomfortable, shameful and increases feelings of vulnerability – especially at times when they are struggling. When life events come along which challenge an idea about identity, for example being the ‘breadwinner’ or the ‘problem solver’, men may feel intense pressure and isolation.

More and more, promoters of men’s health are challenging these ideas, creating safe spaces for men to talk, and providing information and support in ways which are tailored to men. Here are a few suggestions on how to engage with the conversation around men’s mental health or look for support. There are places and people out there to talk to about how hard things are, people who understand and won’t judge or dismiss you – you’re not on your own.

As well as these sources of support, if you are struggling with mental health difficulties, talking to your GP is an important first step. If you feel you are in crisis, your safety is the priority – call 999 or go to A&E if you’re able.

Charities and support providers for men

Men’sSheds – combatting loneliness by enabling men to come together to build or repair things; many men enjoy using practical skills (carpentry, metal work, engineering etc) but may not have the space to do this at home and or might benefit from meeting other men and making connections. 

Mentell – in person support groups for men

Men Who Talk – free online support groups for men

Andy’sManClub – in-person support groups for men, meeting all over the country on Monday evenings.

Men’s Minds Matter information and resources developed by mental health researchers and a clinician with a lot of experience supporting people in crisis.

Manup? – focused on social media activity and free events, this charity uses videos and podcasts to get conversations going about men’s mental health, sharing stories about how men who have struggled have overcome. 

Tough Enough to Care – charity working to bring conversations about mental health into traditionally male spaces such as in sports.

Tough to Talk – providing training for workplaces tailored to noticing and supporting men’s mental health. 

12th Man – mental health training for workplaces, focusing on the trades.

Although not specifically designed for men;

Hub of Hope is a directory of mental health services across the UK 

Clic offers a safe and moderated range of forums to connect with others and to learn about mental health difficulties and how to better manage them. 

For men struggling with thoughts of suicide

There are a range of good sources of information particularly for people feeling suicidal, and for people who want to support a friend who they’re worried about. Although not exclusively designed to support men, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a great source of straightforward information, tools and resources around coping with suicidal thoughts and supporting others. The Samaritans are a 24/7 listening service for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, and SHOUT is a free 24/7 texting service supporting people who are struggling or feeling suicidal.

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm or suicide, increasing safety is always the priority; calling emergency services, engaging the NHS’s crisis services in your area and speaking to your GP are essential steps.

Top tips and what to do if you’re struggling

Like many of the organisations listed above, at The Retreat Clinics we know that coping with emotional and psychological distress is incredibly hard and at times feels overwhelming. 

  1. As mentioned above, the priority is to increase the immediate safety of the person struggling; the emergency services, A&E and NHS Crisis Support are there to help in the first instance.
  2. If you feel safe, think about what can be done to help any urgent practical problems impacting on mental health (like a housing issue, or a redundancy). Talk to people around you about this and look for sources of advice and support.
  3. Finally, it might be time to look at what has been going on emotionally or psychologically to bring the problem to a crisis. This might involve accessing psychological therapy, or talking to people close to you more and reassessing priorities, giving more time for self-care and connecting with others. 

In the meantime, as simplistic as it may sound, eating well, exercising and protecting your sleep are effective ways to support your mental health.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Retreat Clinics. Our services are available both in-person at our York and Manchester clinics, and virtually. Begin your journey towards better mental health by filling out a self-referral form at the following link: