76% of UK suicide cases are men; obviously, ‘real’ men don’t suffer from depression, do they…?
When we have a baby there is a lot of advice and thousands of books available showing us how to get their wind up (or down) ,h elp them sleep through the night and cut their perfect little gnashers pain free. But, as soon as they grow up into little people the advice dries up and we’re left with our own experiences learned from our parents to guide us into moulding them into adults.
Some dads because of how they were brought up, teach their sons from an early age that if they fall and hurt themselves not to cry, to be brave, to be strong. Boys then learn early on in life to keep their emotions in or they will be seen as weak and less of a man if they don’t.
Some dads will happily talk about sports, cars, engine oil, the pub or DIY; anything deemed as ‘blokeish’ subjects but they will panic and feel very uncomfortable if their son were to mention a problem which couldn’t be dealt with over a beer, a screwdriver or a trip to a sports stadium; they just don’t know how to cope as they’ve never spoken openly about their own emotional matters.
A recent poll from Time to Change shows that almost half of boys aged 16-18 in the UK wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to their dads about mental health problems. When asked why, more than a third said that it was because their dad doesn’t talk about their own feelings. This was probably passed down from their dad and so the cycle continues. Because of this, 37% of young men choose to ‘put a brave face on’ when struggling with mental health problems and 33% would prefer to keep it to themselves.
These young people will grow up to learn that these subjects are taboo, there’s a stigma attached to having emotional problems. The surly teenager could be withdrawn because they are having problems at school and don’t feel able to talk to their parents. How do they bring the subject up? They know it could meet with disapproval and a ‘Just man up Son’ from their dad; they don’t want his disappointment so they don’t mention it. Of course, the surly teenager might just be just that, happy to live in his pit and emerge only at times of eating and leaving the house followed by a slammed door…
This inability to talk through problems carries on into adult hood. Many a girlfriend or wife has felt increasingly frustrated when their other half refuses to talk to them and leaves the room at the slightest confrontation or when they suspect that they are stressed, Men don’t want to be seen as vulnerable; they are the Alpha Male, they should be in control and protecting his mate, not seen as someone who can’t cope with trouble at work or financial worries.
In the Hertfordshire Suicide Audit, 2012 there were 66 suicides and open verdicts, 53 were male, 13 were female. Although women’s mental health problems are the highest they have ever been, men are more likely to ‘succeed’ in taking their own life, partly due to the fact that they don’t seek early interventions and they are more distressed.
Women are by nature more likely to talk things through. The majority of them will be happy to speak to their friends about their problem and relationship difficulties. If blokie were to speak to his mates in this way they’ll just tell him to get a grip and change the subject to football!
The same poll reveals that 70% of sons felt completely comfortable talking about their mental health to their dad if they have always had an easy relationship where the dad talks openly about his own feelings. This clearly shows that the cycle can be broken. Encouraging men to seek help is the key, no male age group is immune to this if fact men in their 40’s are the most unhappy group in the UK.
Suppressing worries and not being able to get support and help grows and grows over the years and in some cases can lead to serious mental health problems, even suicide.
Whenever someone does lose their life to suicide the bereaved often say that they didn’t notice any clues that something was wrong and feel incredibly guilty that they didn’t realise. Spot the Signs in partnership with Mind have developed a Suicide Awareness presentation especifically for men. The workshop highlights some of the signs that may be there.
- Changes in their mood and behaviour including seeming suddenly brighter after a period of low mood.
- They start giving away their prized processions and/or getting their private affairs in order
- They visit people as if they are saying goodbye
- They say things like people would be better off without them or any phrases which indicate self- loathing
- Expressing hopelessness and no point in the future.
- It is often thought that if someone threatens suicide then they won’t actually carry it out but, it could be a way of expressing their levels of distress.
The New Economics Foundation have developed the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. These are a set of evidence-based actions which promote people’s wellbeing. They are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. These activities are simple things individuals can do in their everyday lives.
Connect: There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.
Be Active: Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups
Take Notice Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savoring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities
Keep Learning Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life
Give Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.
Another source of help is CALM; Campaign Against Living Miserably. This organisation looks at men and suicide and has recently developed the hand signal OK across social media which has been supported by inspirational men who perhaps would not be expected to have mental health problems
The Healthy Hub Stevenage works in partnership with Mind to provide support and easy access for people to get help quickly if they are feeling vulnerable, desperate and need someone to talk to. Every Monday 5.00pm – 7.00pm and Friday 10.00am – 12.00pm there are drop in sessions for anyone who feels desperate and needs someone to talk. There are no ‘mental health’ signs above the door and it is completely confidential. If you are feeling distressed out of these hours and need to talk you can ring the Samaritans on their free phone number 116 123.
The Free Suicide Awareness Presentation will be in The Healthy Hub Stevenage Wednesday 24th January 2017 6.00pm – 8.00pm call 014388 242638 to book your space.
If you are interested in learning more about Suicide Prevention and the training that is on offer please find details on Twitter @SpotSignSuicide
Mind in Mid Herts: www.mindinmidherts.org.uk
Spot the Signs, Save a Life: www.hpft.nhs.uk/spot-the-signs/