Almost half of British men have suffered from depression and anxiety. But many are shying away from seeking help or talking about it.
A poll of 1,500 men by The Huffington Post UK found that 42% of men have suffered from depression and anxiety during their lifetime. This tended to be more common in men aged 40 and over.
However, sadly, almost a quarter (24%) of those questioned said that they wouldn’t open up to anyone when experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.
Instead, they suffer in silence.
According to the study, almost half (46%) of men aged between 45 and 54 years old have suffered from the debilitating mental illness, compared to 39% of men in their twenties and early thirties.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle that it’s not always clear why someone may experience depression, but significant life changes are thought to be a factor.
“Men in their 40s may be at a point in their life when they have recently experienced divorce, bereavement or redundancy,” he explains.
“We do know that men are less likely than women to seek help with feelings of depression – and it’s possible that middle-aged men are being adversely affected by the feeling they should keep a stiff upper lip at all times.
“Previous research showed that almost a third of men would be embarrassed about seeking help for a mental health problem and less than a quarter of men would visit their GP if they felt down for more than two weeks, in comparison to a third of women.”
The new findings also revealed most men would rather suffer with depression and anxiety in silence, as four in five said they wouldn’t feel comfortable openly discussing their feelings.
Almost two thirds of men aged 45-54 said they would only talk about their feelings to certain people, with half citing their partner and one third opening up to friends. This figure switched among the younger demographic, with 41% choosing friends and just 19% opting to speak with their partner.
This, Buckley believes, is because where women tend to have a solid network of friends and family who they might be more comfortable discussing emotional issues with, “men are more likely to rely solely on their partner – if anyone at all”.
Buckley explains that this puts guys at greater risk of emotional isolation.
“Mind has found that men define themselves much more by their profession than women, so redundancy is more damaging to their mental health and one in seven men will develop depression within six months of losing their job,” he adds.
Buckley notes that the most important thing for men who are concerned about their mental health to do is to open up – perhaps by confiding in a close friend or family member.
“Lots of people find online forums like Mind’s peer-support site Elefriends really helpful, particularly if they are unable to confide in friends or don’t have strong social networks,” he says.
“If the problem continues to interfere with everyday life, it’s worth consulting a health professional, usually a GP to begin with, who will be able to outline different options for treatment.”
Emer O’Neill is the chief executive of Depression Alliance, an organisation providing online support to people with depression. She tells HuffPost UK that she’s “delighted” to see more of a focus on men and mental health.
“It’s an issue that men have struggled with for years, but it appears to be making headway,” she says.
When Depression Alliance launched, its audience was predominantly women. However over the years more and more men joined the organisation, and it is now an almost even split with roughly 40% of its users being male – mostly aged between 20 and 40 years old.
“Over the last few years there’s been a large increase in the number of men coming forward for help,” says O’Neill.
“It’s due to three things. First of all, accessibility. We found that a lot of men would come to us online compared to the amount of men who wanted to meet face-to-face.”
“We also find that focusing our services on wellbeing and activities – like playing football or meeting up at the pub – helped to get more men involved, rather than simply offering a standard portal for self-help.”
Having men share personal stories about what works for them is another way to get more men opening up about depression, explains O’Neill.
“It’s so important to have positive male role models coming out and sharing their stories.”
Meanwhile Stephen Hull, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK, says: “Mental health is something that we have been focusing a huge amount of our time on at HuffPost UK, especially this month with our Building Modern Men series.
“There still seems to be a certain stigma attached to mental illness and depression and our research shows it is still something that British men don’t feel comfortable talking about.
“We believe it is important to raise awareness and provide an honest and open platform for men to discuss their feelings.”
The survey was conducted by HuffPost UK in conjunction with OnePoll.