Policy Manager for Health, Policy Connect
In the UK, 12.5% of men suffer from common mental health disorders. The statistics are a stark reminder of the importance of improving men’s access to mental health services.
About 76% of suicides in the country are committed by men, making it the leading cause of death for men under 35. Despite greater national focus on ensuring good mental health, men still struggle to access mental health services in the UK.
Why men avoid seeking health support
Mental health has long been stigmatised, and men often encounter hurdles when they seek assistance. Health conditions that disproportionately affect men — such as prostate cancer, incontinence and urological disorders — can intensify these obstacles.
The emotional and physical burden of these conditions often leads to feelings of shame and a perceived loss of masculinity. Consequently, men often downplay their mental health struggles and avoid seeking help.
Improving access to health for all
We must urgently challenge the stigmas surrounding men’s mental health and improve access to support. Access to mental health services can be even more challenging for Black men. Black British men are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than their white counterparts.
Once detained, Black men are often subjected to restraint and are more likely to be detained in high-security wards. This takes a significant toll on health, education and social interactions.
We must also challenge the common misconception that Black African Caribbean men are ‘harder to reach.’ Instead, we must ensure that services become more accessible to Black men by providing safe spaces and working with Black communities.
Black British men are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than their white counterparts.
Mental health policy landscape
The Mental Health Act, which has been in place for over 40 years, requires reform to bring it in line with the demands of the 21st century. However, the shelving of the Mental Health Bill in the recent King’s speech means that the legislation to reform the Act will not pass before the next general election. Failure to reform the Act in this Parliament is likely to come at a significant human cost.
Equitable mental health policies
Policy Connect and Manchester Metropolitan University have been working on the NIHR-funded project called ImprovE-ACT. This research, conducted alongside lived experience co-investigators, aims to investigate the experiences of Black men in the UK detained under the Mental Health Act.
Together, we will set out critical policy recommendations to urgently reform the Mental Health Act on a national level. Addressing the disparities in men’s mental health and improving access to services is a multifaceted challenge that requires collective action, policy change and challenging societal norms.