Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45
Harmful ideas of masculinity have made it hard for men to visit therapists
More men are challenging stereotypes by seeking support when they need it
Common stereotypes suggest that men are far less likely to talk about their feelings than women. Whilst stereotypes are often reflected in real life, on welldoing.org we're seeing more and more men making contact with our therapists. "In my own practice I have noticed a significant shift of what was predominately female cases to a much more evenly distributed mix", says welldoing.org therapist Peter Finlay. This is particularly true of men between the ages of 24-45. So, why is this happening?
What is toxic masculinity?
The emotional realm has long been - whether rightly or wrongly - associated with women. The concept of toxic masculinity is related to male behaviour, what is considered acceptable and what is not. Toxic masculinity dictates that men should be strong, in control, and entirely self-reliant. Sadly, these social expectations probably go some way to explain the tragic reality that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
Thankfully, things are starting to change. Therapists on welldoing.org have shared with us that often 50% of their client base our men, which makes a stark change from previous years. Playing on their tagline The Best a Man Can Get, Gillette has launched a campaign The Best Men Can Be, urging men to hold each other accountable for poor behaviour, and to encourage support and compassion between men: the ad has been watched more than three million times in 48hours.
What's helping men opening up?
"I think technology helps", says welldoing.org therapist Karen Pollock, "In my experience a lot of men prefer telephone and video conferencing, and this has become more available now alongside traditional therapy settings."
Another is the undeniable influence of celebrities and sportsmen, respected individuals who take the brave steps to open up about their experiences. In recent years we've seen the likes of Professor Green, Stormzy, Prince Harry, Terry Crews and Rio Ferdinand open up, and most recently Michael Phelps and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose compassionate response to a male fan berating himself for being "lazy" because he was too depressed to go to the gym has gone viral.
Attitudes are changing, and men are beginning to see that therapy is "a legitimate and worthwhile thing to do", says welldoing.org therapist Ajay Khandelwal. "The men I see are curious. They talk about work, relationships, families, and sometimes sex. In fact, contrary to stereotypes, the subject they end up talking about most are their relationships, and how painful and complicated it is to get them right. They are also much more ready to speak about their inner and personal experiences, and how much they might suffer, or struggle with life."
Changes in society might have a lot to do with mental health on the individual level, believes welldoing.org therapist Paul Weeden: "Most of us have not been through traditional rites of passage into man or womanhood the way our ancestors would have. There is a deficit in knowledge related to what it really means to be a man or women in modern society. A lot of my male clients are seeking encouragement and guidance around exploring all kinds of new areas in their lives that perhaps historically they would have spoken about these sensitive issues with elders or others they respected and trusted. I feel this is partially due to a loss of open connection and traditional communities."
When to get help
"When I am working with male clients who are struggling with the shame of seeing a therapist, I point out that it is in many ways no different to seeing a personal trainer at a gym," says Karen Pollock, "you have to have good sense to know when the time is right to pay a professional, and that is to be praised, not something to be ashamed off!"
You don't have to be in crisis to reach out for support, and you don't have to deal with your problems - however big or small you deem them to be - alone.
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