In the UK, men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women, with those aged 40-49 having the highest suicide rate of all. Men are also are more likely to develop alcohol dependency and/or use illegal drugs, and far less likely to access mental health support – with only 36% of mental health referrals coming from men.
So, this Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week what better time is there to shine a spotlight on men’s mental health and the work of amazing charities such as Andy’s Man Club, who work tirelessly to help men come to terms with the issues affecting their mental wellbeing.
I spoke to Darren Edwards, Project Development Champion at Andy’s Man Club about the work of the charity and the challenges facing the male population today when it comes to looking after our mental health.
Poor mental health is something I have battled with myself following an unexpected cancer diagnosis in 2017. So, I know all too well how it can change your life. However, while it is something that affects millions of men every day, I also feel that it is still sadly seen as a taboo subject by many.
Why? Well, in part I think it is to do with the term ‘mental health’ itself. In everyday conversation it has come to be used as a catch all term to cover everything, from depression and anxiety to suicidal ideation and even low mood. As such, it is arguably meaningless in itself, because it is so vague.
Inevitably it is the higher end issues in regard to psychological wellbeing with which mental health is most commonly discussed, with the terrifying figures around male suicide grabbing the headlines. But, I worry that this can in itself put men off reaching out for support, or recognising their need for support, if they are dealing with issues at the lower end of the scale.
The risk here, of course, is that if men don’t look to address issues such as depression or anxiety when they are at the lower end of the scale, they could escalate to a dangerous point.
It is therefore vital that all men, whatever is going on in their heads, pay attention to the messaging around Mental Health Awareness Week and recognise in themselves when they might be suffering from poor mental health.
The extraordinary work of charity’s such as Andy’s Man Club is helping to do this, by getting men together to talk. Offering a non-judgemental space, where no one needs to say anything more than they are comfortable doing, it is allowing men the opportunity to recognise and rationalise their own issues, while meeting others who may be facing similar challenges.
Of course, reaching out to a charity – whether attending a session or just looking for advice – takes courage as, firstly, you need to admit to yourself that something is wrong. However, the rewards from doing so will always far outweigh the anxiety around going in the first place.
About Andy’s Man Club
To find out more about Andy’s Man Club and discover where your nearest group – of which there are 123 across the UK – is, CLICK HERE
About my own mental health journey
When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, aged 40, my world turned dark. However, the mental health challenges I faced then, and in the years after, reshaped my life to such a degree that I wrote a book about it. You can find out more on the Books page of Midlife On Earth.