When it comes to talking about men’s health, what first comes to mind? Chances are, you’re picturing one of those mags - you know the ones, focusing on fitness and body image. Yet research suggests men are experiencing more physical and mental health problems than they may be letting on
We really underestimate the power of talking. According to research from 2016, over 60% of us have felt like a ‘weight has been lifted’ after speaking about mental health issues. Nearly half of us keep our worries and concerns to ourselves despite an overwhelming 82% saying meaningful conversations are beneficial to our wellbeing. Discussing sensitive issues can be key to not only dispelling the stigma around them, but also in helping find vital support when needed.
While male suicide rates have fallen to a nearly 30 year low, men are still three times more likely than women to complete suicide, with suicide being the biggest cause of death for men under 35. Despite lower life satisfaction and one in eight men experiencing common mental health problems, many are reluctant to share their problems with loved ones or seek support. We share four common men’s health and wellbeing issues, and what you can do to tackle them.
According to recent research commissioned by Ergobaby, nearly four in 10 new fathers have experienced ‘dad shaming’. The nationwide study looked at 1,000 British men who had become fathers within the past two years. A disheartening 38% expressed that they had been made to feel ‘less manly’ by others for being a hands-on parent.
New fathers may be more affected by dad-shaming than we may realise. Ergobaby's recent study revealed over half (59%) of new fathers have been belittled by loved ones or colleagues for taking shared parental leave, carrying a baby in a carrier or pushing a pram. 72% expressed feeling that there isn’t enough support for new dads, with an overwhelming 84% saying that the impact of childbirth on men goes largely unrecognised.
While it was announced in December 2018 that NHS England would introduce support and mental health checks for new fathers, many expressed concern that there had not previously been support available for men. Fathers with postnatal depression can often be overlooked, with many assuming that periods of ‘baby blues’ just affect women, despite NHS figures suggesting PND affects one in 10 men and women.
It’s not only PND and judgemental comments from friends and families men have to worry about. In late 2018, Piers Morgan made headlines for mocking Bond actor Daniel Craig after photos of the new father carrying his child were shared on social media. While many were quick to call the TV host out for his outdated views on masculinity and emasculation with fathers sharing heartwarming photos of themselves carrying, changing, and caring for their children, the latest statistics would suggest the issue of ‘manhood’ still plays a heavy part for men.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of new dads have felt crippled by the pressure to provide for their family, with 15% saying they felt at times as though they were failing their family. Half (49%) of new fathers say they have felt judged for struggling to cope with their new baby, with 40% saying they felt judged by family, 32% by friends, and a third by society as a whole.
The result? More than half (55%) of British dads say they haven’t talked to anyone about their new baby struggles, instead choosing to remain suffering in silence. With so much pressure, how can men get past the feelings of dad-shaming to help tackle the stress and pressure they are feeling, increasing vital bonding opportunities with their child?
Research suggests that over 70% of fathers feel playing with their baby helped with bonding, while 66% said talking to their baby made them feel closer. Taking part in the daily routine including overseeing bedtime (60%), bath time (57%), and helping feed them (52%) were all factors new fathers reported helping them to feel more engaged and closer to their child.
Information could be key in helping increase feelings of closeness. An overwhelming 88% said they would have found it more useful if there was more information available on how new dads can bond with their children. Dr Rosie Knowles, GP and founder of Carrying Matters shared her thoughts.
“Babies and children thrive when their fathers are engaged and loving parents, responsive and nurturing. Dads play a particularly special part in creating secure attachment relationships for their children and it’s very clear that dads long to be more involved with their babies but feel ill-equipped to do so and fear being judged for being hands-on fathers.
“One way dads can encourage the feeling of bonding with their baby is to spend more time just holding them: the loving close contact releases the hormone oxytocin that helps reduce stress and anxiety in both baby and parent. The more they have the opportunity to hold and cuddle their child the more likely they are to feel these essential bonds forming, the more their baby will trust them, and the more their confidence in themselves as fathers will rise.”
If you’re worried you may have unwittingly dad-shamed someone in the past, there are some simple empathy guidelines you can follow to help avoid this in the future. If in doubt:
- Leave advice to the professionals. While tips from family or friends can occasionally help, advice from the experts can give a more rounded answer backed by data we may not have.
- Be thoughtful and encouraging. Many new parents worry about what they are ‘getting wrong’. Before you share criticism or advice that could be taken negatively, try and think about how you could rephrase things with a more positive focus.
- Give praise where praise is due. Acknowledging the ways in which new parents are succeeding can help to boost their confidence and reassure them if they are feeling particularly down, overwhelmed or under-appreciated.
Suffering in silence
New research from Smart TMS suggests more men may be “suffering from depression in silence” than we may have thought. According to their findings, a quarter of men in the UK report having experienced undiagnosed depression for many years, with more than one in 10 (13%) leaving a long-term mental health issue untreated for multiple years to avoid prescription drugs.
Research taking place on the Men’s Health Forum suggested despite more than one in 10 men experiencing a mental health condition, they are less likely to access psychological therapies. A further 11% of men admitted cancelling or missing doctor’s appointments despite being worried about their symptoms.
But why are so many men suffering in silence? Of the over 2,000 British men surveyed as part of Smart TMS’s research, a quarter experienced undiagnosed depression for multiple years. 25% expressed a desire for GP’s to offer alternative treatment to prescription drugs for their depression.
Further research from charity Samaritans revealed two in five (41%) men do not seek help when they need it, as they would rather solve their own problems and don’t want to feel like a burden.
Whilst medication in the form of antidepressants is one option many find can help combat depression, many may not realise it is not the only option offered by the NHS, charities and independent professionals.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and are reluctant to try medication, alternative options your GP may be able to advise you on may include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - an increasingly popular form of talking therapy, CBT is recommended in combination with antidepressants by many experts for those with moderate to severe depression. It is also available as an option by itself, helping individuals to understand how their thoughts and behaviour can affect them, as well as helping you to change the way you think, feel and act, overcoming automatic negative thoughts.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) - focusing on your relationships with others and problems you may be experiencing within relationships (such as coping with bereavement or difficulties with communication), IPT is commonly recommended for depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Often structured in a similar way to CBT, IPT is a brief form of therapy that can help you clarify your issues, analyse how you communicate, and offer a supportive, safe space to speak and be heard.
Physical activity - getting more active physically can help improve your overall sense of wellbeing and mental health. Moving your body can be an important aspect of mental wellbeing. Research suggests regular exercise may be more effective than antidepressants. Helping boost mood-lifting chemicals in your brain, regular exercise can help boost your confidence, self-esteem, and lessen symptoms of depression. GPs may be able to refer you to work with a fitness trainer, or if you aren’t sure where to start, the NHS have some great tips on how you can exercise to help combat depression.
Self-help groups - talking through your feelings and experiences can feel like a massive weight is lifted from your shoulders. Whilst talking with friends or family can help, speaking with others who have had similar experiences can offer a low pressure option without the fear of upsetting or being judged by those around you. If you aren’t sure whether you should try self-help group or group therapy, discover more about the differences between the two and how they can help if you’re struggling with your mental health. The NHS recommend a number of online forums and depression groups that can help you get started.
Depression coaching - a complimentary option that can help in combination with psychotherapy or antidepressants, depression coaching seeks to help with both immediate and underlying causes of how you are feeling. Working with a coach can help you to identify areas that need improvement, build healthy habits, pinpoint what you may be missing, as well as encouraging healthy self-care routines.
Nutrition for better mental health - what we eat could have a bigger impact on how we feel than we may realise. Nutritional psychiatry is a fairly new area, despite the link between poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies being well known. Research suggests our food choices may be affecting our mental health. Working with a nutritionist can be one way to help combat symptoms of depression, as can looking to tackle blood sugar imbalances, nutrient and protein deficiencies, and identifying allergies. Nutritionist Melody shares her thoughts on how you can eat your way out of depression.
Hypnotherapy - seeing a hypnotherapist for depression can help you to identify and target the root causes of your issues, helping you to develop better coping mechanisms. An experienced, qualified hypnotherapist can also help you improve your self esteem and boost your mood. Hypnotherapist Jill shares 10 simple, practical tips to help lift depression.
Problems in the bedroom can weigh heavily on men of all ages. According to one study by Vapemate, smoking has resulted in more than one in five (21%) of men being unable to perform in the bedroom. The research, commissioned to look into how smoking cigarettes may affect our relationships, revealed smoking is one of the biggest turn-offs in the bedroom according to over half (59%) of brits, with more than a quarter of us considering ending a relationship due to our partner’s smoking habits.
Simon Manthorpe, CEO of Vapemate, the company that commissioned the research undertaken by University College London, explains.
“If being confronted with the image of a smoker isn’t enough to turn you off, nearly 20% of all Brits have had their bedroom antics ruined by their, or a partner’s, smoking habit. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause impotence, though the effects of cigarettes are not limited to erectile dysfunction. Being prone to sickness, a tendency to get out of breath and more can all limit a smoker’s performance in the bedroom.”
Quitting smoking can have a number of benefits, including increasing your energy levels, improving your immune system and breathing, as well as increasing your life expectancy.
If you’re worried your smoking habits may be affecting other areas of your life, the NHS offer a variety of free, local services that can help you quit. Providing information and advice, these services may include nicotine replacement therapy (patches or gum), one-to-one or group stop smoking sessions, or medication.
Behavioural therapy, group therapy, and telephone counselling for smoking are all options that can offer a supportive, expert environment to help you change your habits for the better. Counsellor Hugh explores the immediate, hidden benefits of giving up smoking.
Hypnotherapy can offer another method that can help break negative behaviours and thinking patterns such as smoking for stress relief. Hypnotherapist Biodun explains how clinical hypnosis can help you quit smoking.
Hypnotherapy can help with a number of different male sexual problems. When sexual problems arise, these can cause tension, embarrassment, and upset within your relationship as well as on a personal level. Premature ejaculation, erection problems and loss of libido can all be more common than you may think.
Often linked to tiredness, stress, and even relationship issues, hypnotherapy can help you identify the potential causes, improve your confidence, and work towards increasing your self-esteem and sense of self worth. Hypnotherapist Vicky explais more about the subjects men don’t want to talk about and how hypnotherapy can help.
Ignoring symptoms and avoiding the doctors
Over half (52%) of men haven’t visited the doctor’s during the past five years. According to medical tech company ANCON Medical, even when dealing with serious symptoms men can be reluctant to seek professional help or take symptoms seriously.
Due to busy schedules and hectic lives, it was revealed over half of men across the UK haven’t visited their GP over the past five years, regardless of potentially serious symptoms or a history of serious illness within their families. An estimated 2.5 million men across the country are either currently concerned about symptoms or have a family history of cancer.
These figures are particularly worrying, as the most common form of cancer for men (prostate) has an almost 100% five year survival rate when caught early. Without early diagnosis and proper screening, men may be putting their health, safety and survival at risk. CEO of ANCON Medical, Wesley Baker, shares his thoughts.
“It is hugely disheartening that men are still dying from what can be a very treatable form of cancer. One of the main focuses for survivability is ensuring that cancer does not reach the late stage that requires such novel and innovative treatments and is often so lethal. Catching common and treatable cancers early will be one of the keys to reducing the funding deficit for the NHS in future whilst raising survival rates.”
If you’re worried about making a doctor’s appointment or speaking to a medical professional, try these simple tips on how to navigate a doctor’s appointment for mental health. If you’re feeling worried or anxious, being prepared before you make your appointment can help ease these feelings of anxiety. Doc Ready can help you build a checklist of things you want to discuss with your doctor.
If you’re worried about your health and aren’t sure how you can start making changes that can help you feel better physically or mentally, there are people out there who can help.
Read Oli’s inspirational story on why you don’t need to ‘Man Up’ to fix all of your problems, find out more about the impact friendship can have on men’s mental health, or try these simple tips on how you can start talking about mental health at work.
To find a counsellor near you, click the search box below or visit Counselling Directory.