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Breaking the stigma surrounding men’s mental health

November 19, 2022

Whilst both men and women are affected by mental illness, men are far less likely to seek help or treatment despite it being so prominent.  

Approximately one quarter of the UK population will experience mental health problems each year, with only 36% of referrals to psychological support being men. Barriers to accessing mental health support such as stigma and harmful social norms often leave men in fear of backlash when talking about emotions and feelings.  

In relation to mental health, stigma is the negative attitude towards those experiencing mental illness due to misconceptions and misinformation.

This is the leading barrier to men accessing mental health treatment and at Isle Listen, is what we are actively fighting against. Expanding the conversation on stigma is extremely important and can make a real difference in how mental health is viewed. Normalising conversations about mental health can help people understand that it’s okay not to be okay. There is no shame in experiencing mental illness, and the more transparent we become, the wider this message will be understood.  

Toxic masculinity relates to the set of traits that are stereotypically expected in men such as being ‘tough’ and ‘manly’. These expectations put unnecessary pressure on men to act a certain way and can make it difficult for them to reach out and seek help. Feeling discouraged can lead to continued problems or harmful coping mechanisms. Restructuring expectations to allow room for appropriate expression of emotions helps to build a culture in which people can talk openly about how they’re feeling without fear. 

You never know exactly how those around you are feeling or what they might be going through.  

Using phrases such as ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’ may be used without malice but could unknowingly be preventing someone from seeking help. These phrases imply that feelings and behaviour can make you more or less of a man which is completely incorrect. The use of outdated language is preventing stigma from being reduced and changing it is a simple way to make a big difference.  

Unfortunately, many people hold negative attitudes towards mental health without being properly educated on the topic. Mental illnesses are often linked with chemical changes in the brain and just because you can’t see an illness physically, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Deep rooted opinions are seemingly difficult to shift, but increasing knowledge and education is a positive step forward.  

It’s everyone’s responsibility to break the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and if you’re not sure how, here’s some easy ways to make an impact

  • Talk openly about mental health 
  • Educate yourself and others  
  • Support anyone who chooses to talk to you about their mental health 
  • Respectfully challenge those with incorrect assumptions surrounding mental health 

Did you find this helpful?

We have lots of other resources with useful information and advice on how you can look after and support your mental health and wellbeing.

Go to resources

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