Jo, a member of the Student Wellbeing Team, talks about men’s mental health and Time to Change…
Mental health stigma affects all people differently and this stigma is particularly unique for men.
So, why is it hard for men to talk about mental health problems?
Shame, stigma and the fear of appearing weak
Shame and stigma are huge barriers to talking about mental health issues and there is prominent stigma in our society that tells men who have a mental health condition that they should ‘suck it up’, ‘man up’ or ‘get over it.’
Many men report finding it much easier to talk about physical problems than to talk about emotional ones. Men are often raised to be ‘strong’, ‘tough’ and ‘dependable’, and many (wrongly) view having a mental health difficulty as some kind of weakness.
Many men report that they do not want to be seen as weak by, for example, taking medication or accessing support services, because they feel they need to depend only on themselves. Many also describe that telling anybody they are struggling with mental health would feel like admitting there was something defective about them as a person.
It’s just so easy, and tempting, to say nothing
When it comes to things going on in one’s mind it can seem much easier, on the face of it, to keep quiet. ‘No one can see what’s going on. If I just try to act normal then maybe in time it will go away.’ This is the kind of reasoning which many people – and men in particular – often describe using when experiencing mental health problems.
Fear of making things worse
Lots of people, and a high proportion of men, describe experiencing a fear that their thoughts might somehow get worse if they say them out loud, or a sense that saying them could somehow lead to them completely falling apart. Other men have described feeling completely emotionally overwhelmed by even imagining trying to put into words the way they are feeling when dealing with a mental health difficulty.
Fear of not being understood
It is common for people to fear that they will not be able to articulate clearly what is going on in their mind, and that they will not be understood. The prospect of attempting, and failing, to communicate how you are feeling can be extremely frightening, and this can often lead men to conclude that the best strategy is to try to make sense of what they are experiencing alone.
Not knowing how to initiate the conversation
When should I do it? Where? With who? Many men describe not knowing how to initiate a conversation about their mental health, even if they have decided that they want to or need to. Many report trying and failing to ever find the ‘right time’ to bring it up.
Wanting to hold something back – to be used only as a last resort
The situation of having told somebody about a mental health problem, and things not getting better can feel, to many, like a terrifying prospect which leaves them with no further options. Many men have described keeping a mental health problem to themselves and only telling people if and when they absolutely had to, a bit like not wanting to take an ibuprofen until your headache gets really bad. The problem with this approach is that, by the time the pain is bad enough to warrant the ibuprofen, it might have become a migraine. And by then it’s a lot harder to deal with.
A conviction that talking about it couldn’t change anything anyway
Many men have reported holding the absolute conviction when experiencing a mental health problem that there was nothing anyone could say that could possibly change the way they were feeling.
Fear of passing on problems to someone else
It is also common for people, and men in particular, to believe that, if they tell anyone else, then that person might start to feel the same way.
Cardiff University is teamed up with Time to Change, a growing movement of people working to change how we all think and act when it comes to mental health.
We want any student with a mental health problem to be free of fear and to have equal opportunities in all areas of life. We want to end stigma and discrimination, and to encourage students to talk about their concerns to one another as part of a supportive university community.
Join our Student Working Group
We want to hear from you about your experiences and ideas about what needs to happen to end stigma on campus. If you would like to be part of the fight to end stigma, please join our Time to Change Student Working Group: a group of students which meets twice per semester, to discuss mental health stigma on campus and ways to reduce it, in order to initiate change.
For more information, or if you are interested in being part of this group, please email Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contacting Counselling Health and Wellbeing
If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday to Friday
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Therapeutic Groups
- Wellbeing Champion Support
- Self-help resources
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
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Everyone’s attitude makes a difference.
Your attitude makes a difference.
Jo, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing.