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Men's Healthcare Q1 2023

Working class men are left behind when it comes to mental health

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Simon Gunning

CEO, Suicide Prevention Charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

While attitudes towards mental health are changing, men — particularly those lower down the socioeconomic ladder — are struggling in what has become a mental health epidemic.

The unfortunate truth is that suicide is still the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Research shows that men in the most disadvantaged areas of the UK are up to 10 times more likely to take their own lives than those in affluent areas.

When you factor in austerity, soaring living costs and a growing number in problem debt, the outlook is worrying. This is why we need greater investment in education, benefits, affordable housing and local amenities. However, these investments also have to extend to prevention rather than firefighting alone — and that starts by addressing the culture that surrounds us.

Shifting mental health for men

Something that comes up time and time again when working with suicide survivors and their families is the stigma that stopped them from getting help. That’s because deep-rooted perceptions of what it means to be a man are hard to shift. We conflate strength and stoicism — masculine ideals that value repression and indifference.

These confused and ingrained values can lead us to think we have no worth if we don’t match them. Our own research shows 63% of men agree that the widely-held ideal of being ‘unemotional’ was harmful and offensive.1

Far too many men feel embarrassed to admit they are struggling or feeling depressed.

At the same time, the language that surrounds mental health fails to connect with those at the tougher end of the socioeconomic spectrum who are without access to the kinds of progressive education that the more advantaged take for granted.

Words matter. Shifts in language can help reduce stigma and facilitate easier access to treatment before the point of crisis.

How to help all men

Far too many men feel embarrassed to admit they are struggling or feeling depressed. Education is key in helping men of all ages and circumstances understand they have a right to ask for help — a point supported by the fact that 56% of young men believe the best way to promote a positive perception of masculinity is to normalise getting help (CALM mandate report).

And that’s the crux of it: normalising being lost sometimes; normalising not feeling great; normalising getting help. While we’re moving in the right direction in some areas of the UK, we need to make sure no one is left behind — no matter where or what class they were born into or where they find themselves, especially now.

For practical support and advice for whatever you’re going through, head to thecalmzone.net

[1] https://www.thecalmzone.net/what-it-means-to-be-a-man-today

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