Mental health within men is often a taboo subject still in 2020, with male suicide rates consistently higher than women’s there is an apparent neglect of conversation about male mental health and suicide. With suicide rates increasing yearly, there may be a cause for concern and urgency to get men talking, especially when alone in isolation during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that three-quarters of registered deaths are among men, which has been the case since the mid-1990s. As well as this the most recent suicide rates in England in 2018 is significantly higher than in 2016 and 2017.
With an increase of male suicide in England, the area which seems to be suffering the most with the highest suicide rate in 2018 was the North East. (20.4 per 100,000); this suicide rate was much higher than in London, the area with the lowest suicide rate for males.
Adam Proud, a confidence coach, youtuber and motivational speaker from Newcastle Upon Tyne aims to give people confidence, to inspire them to go after what it is they want and to start living with a more significant appreciation for life. Adam believes there could be several factors as to why men may struggle with their mental health, especially within the North East.
“When it comes to male suicide, it’s still a taboo subject. It’s not something that people want to talk about, especially blokes. I think it’s important to find your brothers, to find that tribe where you can say look, I’m struggling. In the North East, there’s a big emphasis on being a macho man, having big muscles and being the alpha dominant macho man.”
Adam believes the macho man stigma that circles the North East can and should be avoided if necessary. That men should not have to be pressured into filling the stereotype that comes with being a man in the North East.
“You could be shy, quiet and get on with your life and still be a man of value and a man of purpose. I think that’s one of the things that men lack in life is a sense of purpose, and that’s what drives them to taking their own life. I couldn’t tell you what a man’s purpose should be other than to find a purpose to find something out there that inspires a fire within them.”
He thinks a reason why suicide rates are high in the North East within males could be due to pressures of fitting the Geordie macho man stereotype.
“Geordie men have this idea that you have to be loud and dominant and control the room in order to feel like you matter and that makes people who are introverted feel like they’re less of a man. You can be a proud man by being reserved. You don’t have to be dominant, which I think is a big part of what makes Geordies so elaborate and friendly is that warm, welcoming loud atmosphere. I think it can put a lot of men off.”
“If I was to give advice to men who are struggling, I would say the best thing to do is find the one person that will listen. Someone who you can talk to, who is gonna give you a bit of a push” he added.
Stefan Kirkwood, retail worker, after experiencing mental health issues, believes that even in 2020, there is still pressure on men not to cry.
“Even though it’s 2020, we live in a generation where men don’t cry. Often, it’s seen as a weakness to not be okay, mental health as a whole isn’t up for discussion. Often feels lonely at times, if a man asks for help. Then it’s almost weird. Usually told to “Man up” and keep emotions in.”
After struggling with mental health issues, Stefan feels it essential that men who are suffering reach out and access the available help.
“From my experience, help is out there. It’s a genuine fear to open up. In my case, I fell into the trap of exactly that. Felt like if I gave it some time, it’ll be okay, for those who don’t have any families to rely on etc. All I can say is that help is there. Use it. It’s okay to not be okay.”
Joe Golden, an aspiring bodybuilder, believes the pressure on men within the North East stems from shows such as Geordie Shore and the messages it portrays to audiences of how a Geordie man should look.
“Due to programmes such as Geordie Shore where men from the North East are portrayed as macho men will have an effect on many who do not look like that. It is often put on to men from the North East that it is one of the main ways to become more popular and many would go over and beyond to try and achieve that look, sacrificing both mental and physical health to try and achieve this.”
As well as the pressures from TV shows such as Geordie Shore, Joe feels that men do not want to open up due to fear of ridicule and believes there should be further support out there for men.
“The main reason for men feeling like this is the fear of ridicule about opening up. Many men feel emasculated by talking about their feelings as it is not often portrayed well in media outlets. More North East support groups for men should be set up to help individuals feel comfortable seeking mental health care.”
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Please watch our video to learn more facts about male mental health and ways to help those suffering.