Movember - a combination of the words “moustache” and “November” - has arrived and aims to shine a light on men’s health issues, including mental health challenges. The annual event encourages men to take part by not shaving their facial hair throughout the month of November.
In conjunction with Movember, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has released new data that shows more than half (52%) of therapists have seen an increase in cases of depression in men over the past year.
But while more men are struggling with their mental health, 56% of therapists agree that men are less likely to get mental health support than women. In addition, 47% reported that men are more likely to be sceptical about the benefits of therapy compared to women.
Experts fear that this means many men are suffering with their mental health in silence, with societal pressures and stigma around mental health a likely reason for this.
The BACP also found that symptoms of depression may be different between men and women. Half of therapists reported that, aside from the more commonly recognised symptoms like feeling low, men tend to present with symptoms like risk-taking, anger, isolation, substance abuse, and exhaustion - known as the R.A.I.S.E apronym.
They warned that depression in men may often go unnoticed if people don’t know what signs to look for and aren’t aware that these behaviours could indicate a person is suffering from depression.
The organisation has released a new booklet and online guide to help men spot these symptoms and offers guidance on how to manage them. It also aims to help support and encourage men to seek therapy.
What is R.A.I.S.E?
R.A.I.S.E is an acronym coined by the BACP to raise awareness of lesser-known symptoms of depression that men present with. These include:
Taking big risks and thrill-seeking behaviours can be a sign of depression in men who may consider themselves to have an “uninteresting life”, the BACP says on its online guide. This behaviour can manifest in impulsivity, violence, anti-social or bravado-associated behaviours, and lack of concern for safety for themselves and others.
While anger is not an inherently bad emotion, as it allows people to express negative feelings and find solutions to problems, men tend to be more prone to “types of anger that discourage emotional expression, leading them to suppress feelings until they boil over”. This can lead to men displaying aggressive stances such as clenched fists and raised voices, risky behaviour like substance abuse or reckless driving, and violence if the anger goes unmanaged.
If a man begins withdrawing from his loved ones and choosing to spend more time alone, it may be a sign they are struggling with their mental health. Isolation is characterised by “a sense of loneliness, disconnection, and withdrawal from social interactions”.
When struggling with their feelings, men can sometimes turn to self-medication in order to “avoid, block or enhance” it, which can be a “trauma-triggering coping strategy” that helps them avoid facing the real problem, according to the BACP. Substance abuse can start “as seemingly innocent”, but “can quickly become unwanted, problematic and painful”.
Aside from feeling sad or low, depression often also manifests as a physical lack of energy, which can be caused by a lack of sleep, change in routine, or other stress factors. Men with depression may experience burnout from work, a decline in interest in activities they normally love or keeping up with their day-to-day routines, and irregular sleeping patterns.
How can therapy help men?
Seeking therapy is important for men who are struggling with their mental health as it can help them understand their situation better and open up about what they are facing. Talking to a therapist gives men the opportunity and space to understand and explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as provide them with tools they need to cope and live better.
Ewan Irvine, BACP trustee and therapist, said: “It can be mentally and physically exhausting for men when they carry burdens around, believe they shouldn’t cry and feel they should always be the strong ones.
“We know that sometimes men find that substance abuse, such as alcohol and drugs, have in some way lessened feelings of anger and isolation, but in reality, these make matters worse. It’s crucial men can recognise these symptoms of depression and understand that it’s OK not to be OK.”
He adds: There’s a strength in reaching out for help. Taking that first step may not be easy, but counselling can be transformative. It’s a safe space built on trust, confidentiality and is without judgement and allows men that time centred on them to talk about their own issues and problems.”
Read more about male mental health:
How to spot the signs of male depression and address it (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)
Will Poulter: ‘Within the Male Community, Mental Health is Especially Stigmatised’ (Men's Health UK, 2-min read)
Local man's story inspires pub to launch men's mental health group (Lancashire Telegraph, 2-min read)