Men’s Mental Health and Stress – Its time to “Speak Out”
Global statistics indicate that 1 in 6 of us over the age of 16 will experience stress, anxiety or depression at some point in our lives. Although both men and women encounter similar levels of stress men are less likely to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress or seek help. Men’s mental health and stress is important. It’s time to speak out.
What is stress?
Stress can be described as a reaction to a threat. This is an inbuilt response that humans and animals have when faced with frightening situations. It is known as the “Fight / Flight” response. This response, a primitive survival mechanism, was crucial for our early ancestors frequently confronted with life threatening events. Nowadays, we may not face the same physical threats but our brain will still react in the same way when faced with emotional ones.
Stress is part of life and in some cases can be helpful (think back to primitive man). Stress becomes problematic when it occurs over a long period of time or when we experience too much at a time. Chronic stress weakens the immune system and can lead to other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Men’s Mental Health and Stress
A key difference between men and women’s responses to stress is how they deal with it. Although both experience similar stressors around work or financial issues, relationship difficulties or dealing with significant life changes, such as their own or a family member’s ill health, women tend to search out support and talk about it. On the other hand, research suggests that on the whole men are reluctant to seek help being more likely to “bottle up” their feelings or use “escape” strategies such as alcohol, drugs or withdrawing socially to cope.
Gender stereotypes and expectations in society of having to be “strong” and not show vulnerability are thought to be part of the problem of not talking about it and can increase the chance of depression. In fact the “average suicide rate across all countries among men was 3.7 times greater than that for women”( Health at a Glance Europe 2018).
Signs and Symptoms of stress – things to look out for
Signs and symptoms can be physical, emotional or behavioural. Being aware is the first step in making changes. If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms below, ask for support.
- Anger and irritability, feelings of despair or hopelessness
- Feeling tired, low energy, not being able to sleep well
- Finding it hard to make decisions or concentrate
- Experiencing headaches, backache, muscle pain and stomach problems
- Withdrawn, not wanting to go out
- Suicidal thoughts
- Smoking or drinking more
- Not feeling hungry or eating for comfort
Recognising and responding to stress early on is key in stopping more severe mental health problems from developing. If you or someone you know is experiencing stress, follow the tips below and don’t suffer in silence.
SPEAK OUT (Tips for managing stress)
S – seek support from family ,friends or professionals
P – pace yourself. Break down tasks and jobs so you don’t become overwhelmed
E – eat healthily and regularly
A – activate yourself. Movement /exercise releases endorphins our “happy hormones”
K – kickback and relax. Take time out for yourself, keep up with hobbies or start one
O – objective not subjective. Try not to personalise, try a different view
U – utilise positive strategies and your skills to help when you feel down
T – talk about how you feel with someone you trust. Its okay to ask for help