November sees the annual opportunity for men to do something uniquely masculine: experiment with our facial hair.
Since its inception in 2003, ‘Movember’ has encouraged men across the planet to take out the trimmer and craft some upper-lip whisker wizardry – for one month only.
From a modest 30 Mo Bros in its first year, the initiative has grown rapidly and now has a staggering six million supporters, with donations exceeding AUS$1.16 billion. All in the name of men’s health.
Each year, the money raised from Movember is ploughed into a huge range of charities, which support men seeking treatment for depression in the UK, improve men’s social connections, and offer mental health support to all sorts of men in all sorts of roles, including professions as diverse as vets and first responders.
In 2020, the charity announced funding for 34 mental health projects supporting men’s and boys’ wellbeing.
So why is men’s mental health such an issue? How can men stay more mentally healthy? And how can we get better at looking after ourselves and looking out for our mates?
Is it a bloke thing?
There are many common beliefs about men and our MENtal health:
- Men bottle things up. Just as we never ask for directions, we never seek help with our mental health.
- Suicide is more common in men than in women.
- Men are great at helping their mates with blokey tasks like building projects and BBQing. But we don’t look out for each other when it comes to our mental health.
- We’ll talk footie, Forex and Netflix, but, please, don’t ask us to talk about our feelings.
- Men are perplexed by our assumed evolution from alpha breadwinner to feminist family man.
As with most things, it’s not all that straightforward.
For sure, some men find it more difficult to talk openly about their feelings than some women – but there’s plenty of research to show that it’s not that simple.
Mental health charity Mind reports that the number of men feeling worried or low has increased at double the rate of women over the last decade. But this steep decline in men’s mental health can’t be put down to simplistic gender stereotypes.
And, while Mind’s research reveals that the number of men who have suicidal thoughts has doubled in the last decade, it also finds that:
- Men who feel depressed are just as willing as women to see their GP.
- It’s almost three times more likely that a man will see a therapist now than it was ten years ago.
- Men would be even more willing to seek help if there was more online, anonymous and conveniently timed mental health support available.
And a report by listening and support charity, Samaritans, confirms that suicide in men is not simply a result of mental illness. It can be caused by a range of socio-economic factors, including social deprivation, financial insecurity and unmanageable debt.
What’s causing depression in men?
Depression is just one of many mental illnesses. But it’s one of the most common. According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety and depression cause 20% of days lost from work in the UK.
And depression in young men is especially problematic: most adult men who suffer from a mental health condition will have experienced poor mental health when they were young.
Depression is an illness. As with any illness, with the right help, your symptoms can be assessed, and the cause(s) identified. From there, your depression will be easier to treat.
It may be that you’re experiencing symptoms of depression because of an underlying illness, or because you’re taking medication that makes you feel depressed. Check with your GP that you don’t have an undiagnosed condition like diabetes or Vitamin D deficiency, which can create symptoms similar to those caused by clinical depression.
Other causes of depression include:
What is the best treatment for men’s depression?
The two most effective ways of treating depression are medication and psychotherapy. Most people use a combination of the two.
There are also plenty of ways to help yourself, without necessarily relying on therapy or anti-depressants.
Are you taking regular exercise and eating healthily? Could you reduce your intake of stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine? Making simple lifestyle changes could have a positive effect on your mental health.
How can I help a male friend in distress?
If you’ve got a mate who you can see is struggling, it can be hard to make the first move and reach out a helping hand.
You could always follow some of Movember’s own advice. They recommend following a four-step process, ALEC:
- Ask. ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘You seem a bit down, are you sure you’re ok?’ Don’t be afraid to ask twice. He might just say: ‘I’m fine.’ Pick up on specifics, like: ‘I notice you’ve not been replying to my texts, that’s not like you.’
- Listen. It’s great to be listened to. You don’t have to diagnose or solve the problem. Just be there, a non-judgmental friend, willing to take the time to listen attentively, and with empathy.
- Encourage action. It may be time for him to see his GP or to seek out the support of a psychiatrist. Or take simpler actions such as doing more exercise, eating well, and getting a decent amount of sleep.
- Check in. Show that you’re with him for the long haul. Follow up your conversation with a phone call or FaceTime. It’ll help him – and give you peace of mind that things are getting better, and that if they’re not, you can continue to support him.
ALEC is a part of Movember’s confidence building tool, ‘Movember Conversations’. Check it out if you want to start a conversation with a man during a difficult episode in his life.
And now get ready to get tash-tastic. Choose your preferred upper-lip adornment – Walrus, Pencil, Horseshoe or Handlebar. Because Movember’s only a whisker away.
For more information on how we can help you on your journey to better mental health, take the first step, get in touch and we’ll be with you all the way.
Written by Al Brunker.
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