Men and mental health

In England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Last updated: 12 Nov 2020

As with many mental health statistics, it’s hard to know if the figures really represent what is happening. They can only tell us about mental health problems that have been reported – many cases may go undiagnosed. This may be especially true when it comes to men’s mental health.

There are other signs that might give us a better picture of the state of men’s mental health:

  • Three times as many men as women die by suicide.
  • Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.
  • Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women according to the Government’s national wellbeing survey.
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men.
  • Nearly three-quarters of adults who go missing are men.
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men.
  • Men are nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use.
  • Men are more likely to be compulsorily detained (or ‘sectioned’) for treatment than women.
  • Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime (1.5 more likely than women).
  • Men make up the vast majority of the prison population.​ There are high rates of mental health problems and increasing rates of self-harm in prisons.

Why don’t men talk about mental health?

Societal expectations and traditional gender roles play a role in why men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems. We know that gender stereotypes about women – the idea they should behave or look a certain way, for example – can be damaging to them. But it’s important to understand that men can be damaged by stereotypes and expectations too.

Men are often expected to be the breadwinners and to be strong, dominant and in control. While these aren’t inherently bad things, they can make it harder for men to reach out for help and open up.

Some research also suggests that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves, and less likely to reach out for support. 

Men may also be more likely to use potentially harmful coping methods such as drugs or alcohol and less likely to talk to family or friends about their mental health. However, there is research to suggest that men will access help when they feel it meets their preferences, and is easily accessed, meaningful, and engaging.

Is depression different for men?

While there isn’t a different sort of ‘male depression’, some symptoms are more common in men than women. These include irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking and aggression.

Men may also be more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with their depression rather than talking about it. They may use escapist behaviour too, such as throwing themselves into their work.

If you're experiencing depression, there is help available. Read more about the symptoms of depression and ways to get support.

Suicide and men

In 2017, nearly 6000 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were men. Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under 50. 

Higher rates of suicide are also found in minority communities including gay men, war veterans, men from BAME backgrounds, and those with low incomes. Less well-off middle-aged men are particularly likely to die by suicide. This may be because they experience lots of well-known risk factors for suicide: socioeconomic hardship, unemployment, relationship breakdown and lack of social support. You can read more about the risk factors for this group on the Samaritans website

If you feel suicidal, look at the ‘help and support’ section on our page about suicide. There are details of helplines you can call, email or contact via webchat to get support.

What can I do if I’m worried about my mental health?

If you want some tips on staying well, start by looking at our 10 practical ways to look after your mental health. Making simple changes such as talking about your feelings, keeping active and eating well can help you feel better.

If you’re concerned you’re developing a mental health problem, talk to your GP. It can be daunting, but most people find that speaking to their GP and getting help and support can make a big difference to their lives.

If you're in distress and need immediate help or are feeling like ending your life, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress.

There are organisations that offer practical and emotional advice and support. Find out more on our ‘getting help’ page.

I’m worried about someone’s mental health. How can I help them?

If you’re concerned about a friend or relative, there are things you can do to help them.

  • Let them know you’re there to listen to them without judgement.
  • Someone who is experiencing mental health problems may find it hard to reach out, so try to keep in touch. A text message or a phone call could make a big difference.
  • Find out about local services such as talking therapy or support groups. See if there are any specifically for men if you think they’d prefer that. Mind has an online directory of peer support groups in England and Wales.
  • Help them to get help. Reassure them it’s okay to ask for help, and that support is out there. You could help them contact their GP or accompany them to their appointment if they want you to.
  • Take care of yourself. Looking after someone else can be hard, so make sure you consider your wellbeing too.

CALM has a helpful webpage about what to do if you’re worried someone might be suicidal, including warning signs, what to say and what to do next.

Organisations that can help

If you need support, or want to learn more about men’s mental health, contact these organisations.