Men are sometimes said to have trust issues. This is a label every man should reject.
“Doc, I’m struggling here!” These are common words most GPs in the UK have heard at some point listening across from a frazzled looking male patient. These men could be scruffy looking and unkempt, or they could be suave and well-dressed. Mental health problems can sometimes be a great equalizer where despite your socioeconomic background, you can suffer the ill effects of a decline in mental health.
Men are notoriously reticent about seeking help. We often wait till it is really bad or till we feel we are out of options before seeking help. Often it is the women in our lives that take the initiative in making GP appointments and getting help for us. There still seems to be this stigma attached to mental health problems where men feel like it is a sign of weakness to admit to being depressed or anxious.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit a lot of families hard. Many men lost their jobs, some were furloughed, some took pay cuts and others like key workers worked through it all. Common to a lot of these men, was the mental toll that the health crisis took on their minds. Some men who already had strained marital relationships got separated or divorced during this period. There were some suicides and attempted suicides as men struggled to cope with the sudden realization of their vulnerability. Spikes in domestic violence were recorded and parental bonds were also strained.
Many men felt helpless and struggled to come to terms with the effect of the lockdown on their homes and their communities. Some took to maladaptive coping mechanisms like alcoholism and illicit drugs. Some might argue that the COVID-19 pandemic only revealed what was in the hearts of men all along.
As we celebrate the men in our lives this Fathers’ Day, what then gives? How can men be the fearless, courageous leaders at home and in the community, yet still be the vulnerable patient needing help with stress, anxiety, and mood swings? A good place to start is for men to acknowledge they do not have all the answers for a secure and stable mental state.
Many men need to talk. Finding safe spaces in the comfort of a fellow man where they can talk without being judged. For those that are married, confiding in our wives. This is not being weak but rather, it is showing another form of strength. For those with kids, having age-appropriate talks about mental health while trying to understand your kid’s mental state as well. Talking to your GP or taking advantage of the numerous online resources such as www.menshealthforum.org.uk.
Let us work collaboratively to ensure that men do not keep struggling with mental health problems and can find help when and where they need it.
By Dr Uche
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available.
Speak to Samaritans:
Helpline: 116 123 (free of charge from a landline or mobile)
24 hr helpline offering emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide