Out of 40% of men who say they’ve never spoken to anyone about their mental health, 20% say there’s a ‘negative stigma’ around it and 29% say they’re ‘too embarrassed’ to speak up (Priory Group). As a result, many men choose to ‘suffer in silence,’ which can make it difficult as a partner, friend or relative to recognise when a man in your life is struggling.
Read on to find out how to support your partner with their mental health, spot the signs of male depression and signpost them to access the services they require.
What is depression and what are common signs in men?
Classic symptoms of depression include prolonged low moods, difficulty with concentration, unhappiness, and low self-esteem. Men tend to be more likely than women to show the following signs of depression:
This could range from being short tempered and becoming more sensitive to criticism through to more serious behaviours such as road rage or being abusive to a partner or loved one.
Risky behaviour, such as dangerous driving, excessive drinking, or substance abuse.
This can manifest as aches and pains, problems falling asleep, stomach trouble and sexual dysfunction.
No single thing triggers depression in men, but factors can include lifestyle choices, stress, loneliness, past trauma, anxiety, substance abuse, or a combination of multiple factors. Stereotypes and societal pressures put on men to act as the ‘strong’ one in a relationship or to be the breadwinners in a family, mean that many men find it difficult to ask for help. This can then lead to isolation and can make their depression or mental health issue worsen.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, sadly, three times as many men as women die by suicide, so it’s extremely important to support your partner in any way you can.
How can you help if you think your partner is suffering?
If you think your husband, partner, friend, or relative is struggling with depression or another mental health disorder, there are ways to help.
Lend a listening ear
Listening to someone doesn’t mean you have to say much, but sometimes it may be helpful for your partner to feel like they can just talk about their problems and know that you’re there for them.
Create a safe environment
Create a non-judgemental environment where you can ask how they’re feeling and they have opportunities to open up about what they’re experiencing.
It’s also important to lead by example and discuss your mental health with your partner or raise awareness about male mental health. This can help to reduce the stigma surrounding these topics, starting at home.
Encourage your partner to prioritise self-care
This can include meditation, yoga, booking a massage, spending time with loved ones or getting an early night. There are lots of different types of self-care to tend to your physical wellbeing as well as emotional, spiritual and social needs.
Speak to someone at work
If your partner is stressed out due to work, you could encourage them to speak to someone who they trust about their workload or make plans for the evenings and weekends to take their mind off work.
Talk to the experts
There are many outlets and helplines available to talk about depression, anxiety and to seek both long-term and short-term support. If they don’t feel comfortable speaking to you, organisations such as Mind, Samaritans, Mental Health UK and StrongMen are just a few of those charities who can help.
You might find that your partner gets defensive or says they don’t want or need to get help. This might be because they:
- Don’t think they need help or think things will get better on their own
- Are so unwell they don’t think treatment will work
- Don’t understand they’re unwell
- Fear what will happen to them if they tell their doctor how they feel
- Are worried what other people might think
- Are worried it will affect their job or studies
- Feel hopeless
However, by encouraging them to speak with someone, ideally a professional, and by being careful with the words you use, you may be able to break the ice. Instead of being forceful and demanding they take a course of action, use gentler phrases like:
- "I’m concerned that you’ve seemed down recently"
- "It seems as though you’ve been angry recently - is that the case?"
- "I’d like it if you spoke to the doctor about how you’re feeling"
You should also learn to gauge when someone might value their own space, reassuring them you’re there when (and if) they want you.
Life can throw many curveballs, but no matter how tough things get, there’s lots that men can do to look after themselves and each other to help them to cope and live a happier, healthier and longer life. Remember - it’s not weak to speak - so encourage male friends, family and colleagues to start talking.
Our men's health hub can offer support and guidance for you, as well as for the man in your life.
Does Benenden Hospital offer men’s mental health support?
At Benenden Hospital, we understand the importance of men’s mental health. Our Private GPs can discuss any concerns you have about your mental or physical health, including stress and anxiety. Book your 25-minute appointment for £100 today.
Benenden Health members have access to a 24/7 Mental Health Helpline, which is available from the day they join. You can talk about problems such as anxiety, depression, bereavement or relationship problems. Members can call the helpline on 0800 414 8247 while those interested in joining Benenden Health can call 0800 414 8004.
Published on 29 August 2023