Mental health is a topic that is close to many of us and has been brought to light more predominantly during COVID19 with people not being able to have face to face interaction with their loved ones, access to services and a general lack of normality and structure within their lives. With many people struggling or feeling like they don’t have a purpose, it’s now more important than ever to speak out to a friend or seek help from one of the many mental health charities such as Mind and SANE.
We sat down with two health experts from THG – Matthew Leech, Group Medical Director, and Rob Pimblett, Health & Safety Advisor – to bridge the gap between male mental health, why you don’t need to just ‘man up’ and how to break gender stereotypes.
Do you think the phrase ‘man up’ can be damaging?
Yes, the phrase ‘man up’ creates a negative stigma and can often lead to individuals not seeking help as they don’t want to be seen as weak or break the masculine stereotype. The Mental Health Foundation also suggests that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise mental health problems and in turn, are less likely to reach out for support. Additionally, men may be more likely to use coping methods such as drugs and alcohol if they’re in a position where they can’t openly talk about their problems.  So, although it may just seem like a harmless playground phrase to many, we should avoid using it and consider the deeper connotations behind it.
Why do you think men’s health is often dismissed as ‘man flu’?
When men speak up about their problems there’s often some kind of stigma or negative connotations attached or associated with it. Men have always been seen to take on more masculine and dominant roles, so any damage to health or mental health can often be perceived as a sign of weakness, even though it’s really not! We need to stop stereotyping and start taking men’s health more seriously.
How does mental health impact men in comparison to women?
Statistics show that 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with mental health problems each year in comparison to 1 in 5 men. This reflects that women may be more comfortable opening up whereas men may be more likely to brush off their symptoms and not seek professional help. This is why education is so important! The Mental Health Foundation reported that suicide is the largest cause of death for men under 50 particularly those from a low income background, minority communities, gay men and war veterans. Additionally, men are less likely to access psychological therapies from the NHS with them only making up 36% of referrals. 
Why is it important for men to get regular health checks and not ignore their symptoms?
Both physical and mental health should be taken seriously and it’s important to visit your GP or a health professional if you think something is wrong no matter how big or small it may be. More often your symptoms aren’t as bad as you think and a doctor will be able to put your mind at ease, however, if it is something more serious a health professional will be able to advise you further and offer you the correct form of treatment. If you would prefer not to seek mental health advice off your GP, there’s a range of charities that can help here. 
What do you think the best way to break gender stereotypes is?
Education! Not only is it important to educate yourself but it’s also great to educate others and spread awareness where you can. This will help to break down barriers and get people talking. With celebs such as Prince Harry speaking out about it to raise awareness and mental health podcasts such as Happy Place hosted by Fearne Cotton available at a touch of a button, there are many great resources out there to help highlight the importance of mental health and wellbeing.
You can find more information on how to access mental health services here. 
Written by Ellie Taylor