I remember reading a statistic, years ago, that shocked me. It was that as a man in his 20s, my most likely cause of death was that I would kill myself. In fact, it will still be my most likely way to die until I'm well into my 50s.
Three-quarters of people who take their own lives in the UK are men. But only one quarter of people receiving professional mental health support are male. That correlation between those two statistics are stark, and show the challenges men's mental health still faces.
If you're a man like me, then chances us we were brought up in similar ways. From childhood, our families, our schools and our community makes it clear that to be "a man" we should prioritise being tough, being good at sports, our ability to make money and provide, our career status, and not being emotional. I was very lucky that my own Dad, during my early childhood, didn't put me under that same pressure. But that toxic influence was all around me. "Man up". "Don't be a p***y". Most men have a similar experience.
From construction sites, to football grounds, to pubs, to our homes - men often feel like they are expected to uphold this strong, capable, independent standard. But as the saying goes, "No Man is an Island". For all our strength, we are not invincible. And we aren't given a rulebook to follow when we hit a job setback, or a relationship coming apart, or financial problems, or even grief. For many men that's where the problems begin, and it can bring out the worst of us as we hit self-destruct and start to unravel.
The antidote to this is when we find ways to break down the stigma. More and more, over the last decade, we're getting better about talking about mental health as blokes. Those conversations are getting easier to have, and the fear of judgement starts to diminish. Increasingly, someone goes to their male boss at work to say "Hey, I'm having terrible panic attacks and I need to go home early. Also I've started seeing a therapist and I need to work from home on Mondays". And the other day I heard the reaction when that male boss turned round and said "No problem mate, I'm ten years sober and I see my therapist too".
Courage is contagious. Behind every mask, there's a person. By breaking down this stigma we all contribute to making these kinds of conversations easier.
Southampton Counselling Practice formed out of my own individual practice over a year ago. And during that time, I'd guesstimate that a full 50% of my clients are men. Many come to me and say they specifically want to work with a male therapist rather than a woman, and it's been a true privilege to meet so many guys and have such unique, powerful conversations.
But what often amazes me is just how quickly a male client gets comfortable with talking about their feelings to me after they start therapy. We're not "shrinks", or "quacks", or "head doctors". We're human beings. And as humanistic counsellors we focus on just being our real, authentic selves and simply listening - in the hope that encourages you to do the same thing.
If you're a man who might like to talk, or if you know someone else who might, please consider reaching out to us to book a session. We offer a free, confidential 20 minute consultation over the phone, with no obligation to continue. We also offer both in-person and remote sessions to fit around your schedule.
You can meet our counsellors here. We'll be ready to take your call.