As we approach mental health week I couldn’t help reflecting on why I became involved in the business of personal wellness. See, I’ve always been interested in physical health and maintained a steady effort over the years to keep a good level of fitness. For many years however, I ignored my mental health believing I wasn’t one of the ‘weak ones’ who had to worry about such things. I was eventually proved wrong, of course.
Through my own experiences of dealing with mental health and, in particular, supporting and managing officers through extreme trauma I became more aware of the often silent and besieging effects of mental health problems, particularly on men.
I highlight the cause of men because so much of this problem is hidden. Men often feel unable to reach out for help and often allow things to build up, becoming victims of their own masculinity. To illustrate my point: in my police career I attended a number of tragic suicides; I know of at least four officers who took their own lives and so did a member of my own family. Here’s the thing, they were all men – I never actually attended a female suicide. Of course females do take their own lives, and when they do it is every bit as tragic. My own experience however simply highlights how much this is a bigger problem for men.
Here are some startling statistics:
- In 2013 8 out of 10 suicides in the UK were men
- Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45
- In the last decade there has been a marked increase in male suicides
- As many as 4 in 10 men have contemplated suicide at some time or other.
There are often complex issues leading to the act of suicide but one of the simplest and most effective steps a person or organisation can take to help reduce this problem is to promote awareness. Through increasing awareness we can help reduce the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and make it easier for men to share their problems and receive appropriate support.
Remember all men are at risk of mental illness. Many men never show any obvious signs other than appearing a little down or distant. And those who appear the strongest are often most at risk as they seem to go through life with the weight of the world on their shoulders!
If you would like to know more about Mental Health Awareness week from the 16th to 22nd May you’ll find some interesting resources here