New study, and insight from Samaritans, has revealed that men are at risk of poor mental health and suicide during lockdown
Who could have imagined this time last year what the world would look like right now? Our lives have been turned upside down, our sense of normality has all but evaporated, and we’re facing new challenges daily – from the small and inconvenient, to the emotionally taxing and life-changing.
But while people across all demographics will be struggling, a study by YouGov and Jacamo has found that 38% of men have noticed a negative effect on their mental health since going into lockdown in March.
Furthermore, feedback from 1,920 Samaritans charity volunteers – who have been taking calls throughout lockdown – has revealed that poorer middle-aged men are the group most at risk of suicide during the current Covid-19 crisis, with a third of the 7,000 requests they receive every day relating directly to the pandemic.
Reflecting on this news, integrative counsellor Rav Sekhon admits that the figures are sad, but not surprising.
“Lockdown has brought loneliness for everyone, in some capacity,” Rav explains. “Even when living with family and friends, there’s an isolation that exists for us all and that can be difficult to manage.”
“As we know, men are generally less likely to talk about how they feel, and if we add the isolation of lockdown to this it really creates a concerning reality – sadly increasing the risk of suicide for many.”
And the numbers concur, with 33% of men from the YouGov study pointing to a lack of freedom, 42% to not being able to see friends and family, and 17% to feeling stressed at home, as the causes behind the increase in poor mental health.
While in lockdown, our thoughts and feelings become more concentrated, with fewer channels available for us to offload. And talking isn’t always easy, with 20% of men feeling vulnerable talking about their mental health, with ‘being judged’, ‘not knowing how to start a conversation’, and believing they should be seen as a ‘strong figure’ among the main reasons they feel unable to talk about what’s going on.
But it’s not all bad news. For some men, lockdown has strengthened relationships, with 35% reporting that they are able to voice how they are feeling more easily than before, with a further 28% pointing to the fact that they are in their home environment as the reason for this ease.
In response to these findings, from 22 May, Jacamo has launched Jacamo Arms Length, a four-part weekly series in collaboration with The Book of Man, where musicians, comedians, football and rugby players will come together to talk about men’s mental health – streaming at 6 PM on the Jacamo YouTube channel and Instagram.
So often, speaking out about how we are feeling is the first step to managing our mental health. But it’s often easier said than done. So how can we navigate these conversations?
“Start simply by talking to the men in your life about what's going on for them,” advises Rav. “Reach out, drop them a text or a call – even that little bit of social connection could be so helpful.”
“Going further, if you do find someone you know to be acting differently and not quite themselves, don't be afraid to mention this to them. Sometimes that extra nudge might be enough for them to open up – let them know it's coming from a place of care.”
“The key message here is for men is: Let it out. Whatever it is you have to say, you will feel better.”