Young men ‘less likely’ to report symptoms of mental health

This was one of three features I submitted as part of my Final Major Project – I hope you enjoy it!

Young men are less likely to report mental health symptoms to their doctor, or even friends and families, according to specialists.

Many experts have identified there to be a higher stigma attached to young men looking for help surrounding their mental health.

In 2013 there were 6,233 suicides recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older according to Young Minds.

Yet in England, women are almost twice as likely to be than men diagnosed with common mental disorders (CMD’s) such as anxiety disorders, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Experts have questioned whether this means that young men are waiting until their mental health deteriorates before they seek help.

Tobias Palma, 22, from Wycombe, suffers with Bipolar Disorder and didn’t receive help until he was sectioned under the mental health act for 28 days.

He said: “Guys tend to not really talk about it. Most guys will put off just going to the doctors or the dentist let alone talking to someone about how they might want to kill themselves or they feel ashamed about something.”

Toby Palma was diagnosed with Bipolar Effective disorder about four years ago. He currently receives treatment from College Keep in Southampton.

Toby believes that many young men leave their mental health to a point “where they become the statistic” and commit suicide. Toby added “It’s really that black and white.”

“Which is terrible really because it’s not like there should be a male specific support system. They just have this idea that they can’t talk to people about it which is completely ridiculous.”

What do the experts say?

Brent Highmore has been practicing as a Counsellor for twelve years. He believes the stigma of mental health is especially difficult for young males to overcome.

He said: “There is a huge stigma for most people in accessing support for mental health, but for young males in particular there seems to be too many obstacles in terms of acceptability.

“I think more often than not males will come to counselling when their situation has become unbearable or resulted in a crisis, whereas female clients will access help before it gets to such a point.”

From counselling sessions Brent Highmore has found that “young men felt the same emotions as young women but seldom felt the freedom to express or externalise. There is an expectation that to be male is to be strong and deal with problems.”

Young girls are said to be more likely to ask for help from their GP or mental health charities.

Asking for help

Abigail Oakley, 32, works at Solent Mind and organised people with “lived experience” of mental health to talk to young people.

She said: “We have a lot of young women that volunteer for the project however we’re now getting more men coming through that have their own lived experience are happy to talk about it.

“It’s important to resonate with those young boys because I think if you have someone with lived experience that actually says ‘you know what I’ve been there I’ve done that’, it’s going to open up to those younger boys, and they’ll probably think in the future feel empowered to talk about it.”

Abigail believes stigma against young men is “slowly changing but is still a massive issue”.

Improving the situation

A recent campaign by Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) saw high profile male celebrities talk about their mental health issues. Included in this was Professor Green who spoke about the impact of his father’s suicide and is now a spokesperson for CALM. The organisation is trying to promote discussion among men to talk about depression and anxiety.

Brent Highmore hopes that campaigns like this will encourage more young people to talk about their mental health.

His advice to young men is to “try talking to one of their trusted friends”, because many young men say they don’t want to “burden them with their problems”.

If you are affected by any of the topics in this article, the Samaritans can be contacted free on 116 123 or through their website.

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