Men’s mental health ‘under pressure’ as suicidal thoughts double in ten years

Mental health charity Mind has revealed new research into men’s mental health showing that, while some progress has been made, men feel worried or low more regularly than ten years ago and are consequently twice as likely to feel suicidal.

‘Get It Off Your Chest: Men’s mental health 10 years on’ was commissioned by Mind as part of its charity partnership with the English Football League (EFL). The report compares new polling data from YouGov* with the same survey from 2009 to understand how the challenges facing men’s mental health have changed over the past decade.

The results paint a mixed picture, suggesting that, while men generally feel more able to seek help and open up about their mental health than a decade ago, those with current worries are still relying on coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol alone (13 per cent vs 9 per cent) and taking recreational drugs (4 per cent vs 1 per cent).

Men’s help-seeking behaviour has improved to a degree and men are now almost three times more likely to see a therapist, if they felt worried or low for two weeks or more, than in 2009. Men’s willingness to seek support from their GP has also jumped significantly and they are now equally as willing as women to do this (both 35 per cent). This suggests that the stigma around seeking support is lessening, with awareness-raising campaigns such as Time to Change challenging stereotypes of the ‘strong, silent’ man.

The report also suggests that more effort should be made by healthcare professionals to provide alternatives to medication for men. While it is encouraging that men are now more willing to seek help, they are not always receiving a range of treatment options that suit them. When asked to imagine they were seeing a GP about feeling anxious or low and didn’t want to be prescribed medication, the top alternatives that men would prefer are face-to-face therapy (32 per cent), physical activity (15 per cent) or a social activity (14 per cent).

Mind has piloted a model for physical activity sessions through its Get Set to Go programme, which supports people with mental health problems to get more active. The programme was expanded in 2019 through Mind’s partnership with the English Football League (EFL) with participants finding it increased their ability to take part in physical activity but also improved their social support structures and self-esteem.

While social media was very much present in 2009, it is clear that its influence over men’s mental wellbeing is now significant, with more than one in three men (37 per cent) saying social media has a negative impact on how they feel. Whether related or not, the number of men who are worried about their appearance has risen from 18 per cent in 2009 to 23 per cent, with people aged 18-24 particularly affected (39 per cent).