Mental health after a divorce: Study finds men have higher risk of post-split depression

Man looking depressed while sitting alone with his head in his hand on his living room sofa at home after divorce
Divorce is more likely to affect men's mental health than women's. (Getty Images)

Divorce is never easy, but did you know that it can have a profound impact on your mental health?

One study found that divorce has been associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety and even increased alcohol abuse.

Now, a new study has found that men are at a higher risk of first-onset major depression compared to women, and another found that 40% of men who seek psychological help following divorce or separation experience suicidal thoughts.

So, what can men - and anyone else going through a divorce or separation - do to protect their mental health during this life-altering time? Julian Bremner, Partner and Financial Arbitrator at Family Law firm Rayden Solicitors, has shared four things you can do to look after your mental health.

Envision the future

Bremner says one helpful hack is to picture where you want to be in one, three or five years time.

"Once you have that image in your mind, focus on it always," he adds. "Imagine yourself having moved past this process, in a home with which you are happy spending time with your children and loved ones, with enough money coming in to be comfortable and at a point with your ex where you can be cordial and in the same room as each other."

He says that the last point is "particularly important" if you are going to have to co-parent.

"There are going to be events where you and your former partner will need to be present and not be a burden or cause for worry for your children," he says.

"Parties that can take that sort of view are less susceptible to responding intemperately to triggers and pressure that will occur in the divorce process and will ultimately have a better chance of achieving the successful outcome they want because they will not engage in the negative minutia and looking forward provides a realism that will enable you to accept the compromises that inevitably happen to achieve a robust and satisfactory settlement."

A mid section of a young man wearing a green shirt is holding his wedding ring
Envisioning your future self can help when going through a divorce. (Getty Images)

Keep yourself busy

One 2019 study found that 60% of people who get divorced enjoyed spending time on hobbies, while 50% improved their relationship with family and friends, and 65% said they had a better outlook on life in general.

"Taking up something new will enable you to meet other people and help re-establish who you are now that you have separated," Bremner says.

"I cannot stress enough how easy it is for parties to fall into a pain cycle if there are no external diversions. In this regard, it is easier for people who are working full-time or part-time as their employment means they are distracted. But, it also means ensuring that you have things to do in your free time."

Avoid ‘emotional vampires’

"There are people out there who feed on the negative processes others are going through," Bremner says.

"These people often come disguised as help and support but actually, there is something about your situation that is feeding them and these people will often make your situation worse and not better. Their helpful support and advice will turn to the negative and they will accelerate hostilities between you and your former partner."

He adds that, quite often, these people will "come out of nowhere" and perhaps be acquaintances you didn’t know that well before your divorce.

"Suddenly there is such firm support at a time when everyone needs a crutch to lean on," he says. "However, if you do not know this person well, step back sometimes, and listen to whether the advice that party is giving you is helping, hindering or worsening the situation."

man doing pottery
Hobbies can be a great way to help your mental health when going through a divorce. (Getty Images)

Seek professional help

Like with anyone suffering with their mental health, speaking to a third part can do wonders for helping you get through a touch time.

"The end of a relationship causes significant changes. People indeed change on relationship separation as they try and re-find their feet as an individual, particularly if the relationship they have been in has been long," Bremner says.

"Everyone needs help sometimes and speaking to a properly trained counsellor or psychotherapist or a psychologist is often of real assistance."

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