A focus on the mental health of minority men

28th Jan 2020
Challenging mental health inequalities
Men's mental health

This content mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts and discusses discrimination or discriminatory violence (such as homophobia, racism, sexism and ableism). Please read with care. There are details of where to find help at the bottom of this page.

It’s not long since we spent the month of November putting particular emphasis on men’s mental health.

There’s a good reason for doing so. Some statistics about men’s mental health in the UK are really worrying. For example, men are under-represented within primary mental health services in England, such as Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) but are over-represented within acute psychiatric services. In recent years, men have also accounted for 75% of completed suicides, which is currently the biggest cause of death for men under 50.

Being a man and a minority

But it’s important not to treat men as a monolithic group because we will have different experiences of the world based on – among other things - our ethnicity, national origin, sexuality and class.

And at the Mental Health Foundation, we look at inequalities because often, those variables put us at different risks for developing poor mental health.

For example, Black men in the UK are more likely to experience psychosis than their white peers and more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Suicide rates among men of Black African and Black Caribbean origin are also higher.

Gay, bisexual and trans men are also at greater risk of poor mental health. And there is some speculation that having had their sexuality or gender identity pathologized for years, there is mistrust of health professionals that can result in reduced help-seeking.

Finally, Irish men in the UK are another group who have experienced higher rates of poor mental health. Irish People in the UK have had higher rates of hospital admission for poor mental health and a greater risk of suicide.

Challenges for men generally and minority men in particular

A number of factors contribute to someone’s risk of having poor mental health or attempting suicide, including poverty. For men in the UK, it’s thought that some of it might also be down to the stories that our culture perpetuates about what it looks like to be a successful man.

The imperative to be strong and self-reliant can impact our ability to connect and build relatedness. This can result in us feeling lonely and isolated, which in turn can impact our mental health.

If you layer the experience of discrimination on top of this, that may account for some of the increased risk minority men appear to face. And whilst many men, regardless of background, feel pressure to conform to masculine ideals, perhaps minority men feel particular pressure to appear strong relative to the majority.

What to do?

For men in general, it is important to create opportunities to connect and feel seen and heard.

There is good work being done to achieve this. One example is Andy’s Man Club, which meets in locations around England to give men a space to talk, aiming to halve the male suicide rate.

Sometimes it helps to be with peers to discuss common difficulties. It can be important to have spaces that permit reflection on different aspects of our identity and some of the associated challenges. And those challenges might relate to being a man, being a gay man, or being a man and also an ethnic minority.

At the Mental Health Foundation, we are currently delivering the Comhar project in partnership with icap and the London Irish Centre. Building on our decade of experience in peer support, the project offers weekly groups for Irish men in mid and later life. It represents an approach that has worked in various settings to foster community and break isolation. In delivering the project, our aim is to do just that, but also shore up a model that can generally serve the mental health of men, including minority men.

If you are feeling like ending your life or feel unable to keep yourself safe, 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. If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

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