How We Can Support Men’s Mental Health in 2023

Key findings:

  • Mental health in the UK has reached another crisis point.
  • The cost-of-living crisis is worsening the public’s mental health, and people from poorer backgrounds are 2x more likely to suffer from depression as a result.
  • Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, and socio-economic status plays a role too – poorer men are more likely to die by suicide.
  • The pressure to be traditionally “masculine”, feelings of embarrassment and the stigma of men experiencing mental health issues are the main factors stopping men seeking help.
  • Celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, who spoke about his struggles while filming The Son, have begun to remove some of the stigma around talking about your mental health.
  • Men can support one another and reduce this stigma by regularly checking in with their friends – Roman Kemp’s documentary Our Silent Emergency advocates for asking if they’re OK not once, but twice.
  • Confiding in loved ones, whether it be friends, family or partners, can help men to feel more comfortable opening up and seeking help.
  • If men feel uncomfortable speaking to their GP, they can self-refer to mental health services anonymously.
  • Many NHS services can be delivered digitally and remotely, reducing the pressure of speaking to someone face-to-face and verbally.

Mental health is at crisis point in the UK. 

Even pre-pandemic, the country faced a mental health crisis, and COVID-19 only deepened it. Now, the cost-of-living crisis risks tipping the state of mental health in the UK over the edge, with poorer people twice as likely to experience depression as a result of rising costs.

We know that men and women experience mental health differently too. While women are more likely to experience mental health conditions, the consequences can be deadlier for men – suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 45, and those from a lower socio-economic background are more likely to die by suicide. Neither of these situations are OK.

Supporting your mates’ mental health can be as easy as keeping an eye on them; supporting your own mental health can be a bit harder, but opening your mouth to chat about your problems will help take that weight off. Here, men’s streetwear brand King Apparel discusses what can be done to support men’s mental health in 2023.

Seeing other men speak out

One of the contributors to the state of men’s mental health is that we’re less likely to seek help than our female counterparts. The pressure of being masculine encourages men to keep a “stiff upper lip”, even though it’s proven that this can make these problems worse. 29% of men who haven’t sought help for their mental health feel “too embarrassed”; a further 20% cited the “negative stigma” around it.

If your role models or the blokes in your life aren’t talking about mental health, it can feel difficult to be the one to bring it up. But more famous faces than ever are opening up about their struggles. Wolverine star and all-round entertainer Hugh Jackman recently spoke about suffering with his mental health during the filming of his new movie, The Son.

The actor said: “I certainly realised how vulnerable I was” and talked about his experiences of grief and anxiety on set. He hopes that by being open about his own struggles, he can encourage more “urgently needed” conversations around men’s mental health.

The more that prominent figures like Hugh Jackman that speak out about their own mental health conditions, the more it can become a normalised conversation in our everyday lives. Roman Kemp has followed up his eye-opening 2021 documentary, Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency, with a book around mental health titled Are You Really OK? to keep these conversations at the forefront of society.

Famous faces from the spectrum of music, TV, sport and film have spoken out about mental health, helping to tap into different generations of men. Tyrone Mings spoke of struggling with his mental health during the rearranged Euro 2020 tournament, while Jesse Lingard opened up about turning to alcohol to cope during a period on the sidelines. 

Stormzy challenged stereotypes in rap by speaking openly about his mental health. His 2017 interview was seen as a breakthrough for black men who are underserved by mental health services but overrepresented in psychiatric detentions. His comments were followed by Dave’s seminal album, Psychodrama, which bridges important topics from mental health to identity politics.

Keep an eye on those around you

One of the most powerful tips to come out of Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency was to ask your friends if they’re OK not once, but twice. It’s easy to respond to “are you OK?” with “yeah, fine” – but it’s only when you’re asked again that you might feel comfortable opening up.

The Capital DJ spoke to young men around the UK, who recalled devastating stories about theirs and their friends’ struggles with mental health. One group of teenagers lost a friend to suicide when he was only 15.

In a world where men are still wrongly expected to be stoic and emotionless, taking the first step in opening up can be the biggest challenge. Make sure you’re checking in on your friends regularly. Knowing that you have a listening ear is invaluable when talking about mental health for the first time.

Charities and campaigns have been releasing valuable resources to help you do this. Movember launched Movember Conversations, an online tool that can help people practise asking their loved ones about their mental health. Laid out in a chat format, the tool can help people ask about mental health for the first time or encourage closed-off friends to open up. Meanwhile, the Men’s Health Forum launched its Man MOT campaign in Men’s Health Week 2022, encouraging us to check in on our mental and physical health and to be Men MOT Champions by encouraging our mates to open up.

Speak to your loved ones

Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’ll know someone living with a mental health condition. Speaking to the people you feel most comfortable confiding in is the first step for many. If it’s not a conversation you feel comfortable having in your circle of friends, consider talking to family members or partners.

Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to open up to understand how many others are feeling the same way. But we know it’s not as easy as just saying the words out of the blue. Use TV, music or some other media to start the conversation if that feels more comfortable.

If you’re not sure where to start, first try to identify the emotions you’re feeling. Is it sadness? Despair? Loneliness? Understanding the specific emotions you’re experiencing can help you to start the conversation. Think about what you want from it too – are you looking for advice, or just a listening ear? Considering these elements will make the conversation feel like less of a hurdle.

Seeking medical help when it feels difficult

There are a lot of factors that contribute to high suicide rates amongst men. The societal expectations of masculinity are a major factor, and so is the fact that fewer men seek help from their doctors for mental health struggles. Only a third of mental health referrals are made for men. This stems from men holding more negative views of therapy and counselling than women, relationship breakdowns and a higher tendency for men to turn to alcohol.

There are ways to seek help in a more private setting if talking to loved ones or doctors doesn’t feel like a step you can take right now. Most NHS practices in the UK allow people to refer themselves for mental health and psychological therapies online, which removes the step of having to verbally explain your struggles to your GP. This removes the perceived stigma of speaking to a doctor.

Virtual therapies

An online referral is all well and good, but what if the idea of speaking to someone in counselling feels daunting? While talking therapies are proven to dramatically improve the lives of those with mental health conditions, there are alternatives if you don’t feel ready to talk openly yet.

The NHS offers a self-serve mental health tool, known as self-guided help. This online tool allows you to understand why you feel this way and provides guidance and tutorials on how you can improve your mental health. 

iCBT is another option that gives you access to a real-life therapist. You can conduct sessions virtually from the comfort of your own home, and your therapist can assign you exercises that will improve your mental health condition. They can then review your progress, and you’ll have access to their guidance through messaging. CBT is proven to help people manage the symptoms of mental health conditions; multiple studies show that over half of people who take this type of talking therapy recover or better manage their conditions. iCBT offers a way to take this effective treatment without the pressures of talking in person.

The state of men’s mental health in the UK is worrying, and without proper attention and support, it’s only going to get worse. There’s still a stigma attached to men experiencing, and seeking help for, mental health conditions, and that must be tackled. Prominent celebrities raising awareness of their own issues is essential to breaking down this barrier, but there are things you can do to help yourself and your friends. Let’s make 2023 the year we finally improve the state of men’s mental health.