In 2013, 6,233 suicides were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older. Of these, 78% were male and 22% were female. (source: the Scottish Health Survey, 2013 edition)
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence estimates around 11% of those affected by an eating disorder are male. However, recent research from the NHS information centre showed that up to 6.4% of adults displayed signs of an eating disorder (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 2007). This research suggests that up to 25% of those showing signs of an eating disorder were male.
So why do men get the least help?
The truth is, many men are afraid or ashamed to ask for help because they are stigmatised by society. People think that the patriarchy only negatively affects women, but it targets men too as they expected to be masculine and unemotional. This begins right in childhood when a boy is told to “man up” and not cry if he falls and hurts himself, whereas a little girl will be cuddled and comforted. Men are encouraged to take on more and more: have six packs, drive a nice car, have a great job – all piling on the stress and increasing the likelihood of mental illness. Bottling up all these emotions also can make men lash out and expose their emotions via violence rather than by crying, and this is often praised as being manly.
A Samaritans study found that just 19% of men felt comfortable sharing their problems with other people, despite saying that they would be happy to listen to other people’s problems. This is the issue; men are told to always be the listeners – told that women love talking about themselves and to always ask about their day and their problems. But a man who treats their partner well, should receive equal treatment. Ladies reading this, create a safe place for your male friend or boyfriend or brother or son to come to you with their problems; don’t pester them with it but tell them that the option is there.
Although more women are reportedly abused than men, this presumes that all men who are abused, report it. However, this is not the case. Even if more men did report abuse, there is a severe lack of refuges for male domestic abuse victims, especially those with children that also need refuge. (In a recent research project 90% of men who called a domestic abuse helpline said their main reason for staying with their abusive partner was their concern for their children). AMEN is the only domestic abuse resource in Ireland for men.
Additionally, abuse of men is normalised by the media; too many films show scenes where a woman is being emotionally or physically abusive to a man and it isn’t taken seriously. This makes the situation worse as it could mean some men might not even realise they are being abused. Abuse can occur in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and should be taken seriously whether the perpetrator is male, female or other.
Nevertheless, the situation for men is getting better as more and more people realise that there is a severe lack of help for men who are victims of abuse or mental illnesses. I have left below a selection of numbers and websites which might help. Please share this if you know a man who might benefit from this.
Men Heal – for all men who suffer from depression/anxiety worldwide, and for women who know a man with a mental health issue
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
Men’s Health Forum 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mankind Initiative: 01823 334244
Samaritans UK: 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs a day)