The Role of Precipitating Factors on Men's Mental Health
As we step into November, or Movember, CPI is committed to raising awareness for men’s mental health.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make healthy choices.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood (MentalHealth.gov). In recent years, mental health has been viewed through a medical model. Efforts to eradicate the stigma around mental health has focused on likening mental health to physical health. Whilst in some ways this may be true, it is not the full picture.
The World Health Organization states that 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental health struggles.
Furthermore, in 2018 men accounted for three quarters of UK deaths by suicide. Men often describe the early warning signs that their mental health is in decline, as feeling out of control, feeling increased anger and irritation, doing things to excess (drinking, working, eating, ‘partying’), feeling tired all the time and feeling distracted, unmotivated or physically unwell. With this in mind, and male suicide remaining at an all-time high, it is time to look again at men’s mental health.
I invite you to consider whether the barrier to good mental health and wellbeing is the onslaught of pressures, problems, and precipitating factors that surround you every-day. New research and thinkers in the field are beginning to ask questions that redefine our ‘medical’ view of mental health. What if poor mental health was a normal response to stress, trauma, and abuse? Perhaps a sign of distress triggered by external factors out of your control.
Precipitating factors (the internal and external factors which affect your behaviour) such as work, the rising costs in living and managing post pandemic ‘echoes’ are stacking up and with no outlet are causing feelings of stress, overwhelm and mental exhaustion.
Moreover, research shows that 46% of men are embarrassed or ashamed to talk to their managers about feelings of stress and poor mental health. A further 52% said they would be worried about taking time off with mental health related issues. This is in the context of 1 in 3 men attributing poor mental health to stress relating to work (MIND).
Recent surveys also tell us that men are less likely than women to have a network of support with whom they can discuss their problems, feelings and unpack psychological burdens. Instead, men rely on TV, exercise or self-medicating with food, alcohol, or drugs. This is hardly surprising in a society where the expectation is that men don’t show vulnerability.
Men are instead expected to work long hours showing their strength and if they talk about their feelings, they’re shamed into being part of the snowflake generation. Feelings of separateness and loneliness are undoubtedly going to impact on your mental health and well-being.
Humans are hard wired to respond well to relationships, particularly healthy relationships in which there is trust, transparency, support, and comfort. Even before the pandemic we knew that the effects of social isolation on physical and mental health can be life threatening. The integrated experience of attuning, empathising and being alongside others influences our behaviour, our outlook and our ability to regulate.
This view-point reframes the ‘brokenness’ of the brain to the brokenness of the conditions in which the everyday man now operates. This is not to diminish or deny the very real and complex mental health diagnosis that requires medical treatment but rather to level the conversation.
Guidance and Support
This November lets support men so that they don’t suffer in silence. Let MEN know that it is OK to feel vulnerable, to talk, to ask for help, to need support, to tell a manager, to go to therapy.
Life can be hard, and it is normal and understandable to feel disturbance in the mind in response to this. Social support and work-based culture can make all the difference to how we frame mental distress. By opening safe spaces for men to share their feelings, and by creating safe and effective relationships in which men have agency in their mental health and wellbeing, we can reflect on what it is to be human.
If you are finding it difficult to stay mentally well, finding meaningful connections can help. Whether this is with friends, family, colleagues or finding on-line support through social media groups, websites, or charities.
Involving yourself with the wider community along with educating yourself and asking for help and support may also help to keep life’s stresses in check. Also remember that making the time to visit the GP is part of self-care.
Six top self-care tips:
- Relax and reduce stress
- Find ways to learn and be creative
- Spend time in nature
- Connect with others
- Look after your physical health
- Try to get enough sleep
If a plant was wilting, we would not medicate it, but rather look at adjusting the conditions in which it lived so that it could thrive.
MIND workplace wellbeing INDEX