By Dr Laura Coia, healthcare specialist, Frog Systems
There are many reasons why a man might say he’s coming to see me in my GP surgery. Often, an appointment is made when something is amiss with their physical health, such as a problem with the back, penis, or prostate. However, when we speak, it often turns out that there is in fact a much bigger and more emotional picture. The issue they made the appointment for, turns out to be more of a physical manifestation of something much deeper – and in many cases, much more serious.
Men’s health is complicated too
Men’s health isn’t straightforward. I see men who are suffering from anxiety, stress, low mood, sleeping problems and isolation. I hear male patients tell me that they are trying for a baby with their partner and they’re worried that it isn’t happening. There are men who come to the surgery who are suffering from relationship issues, financial problems, battling addiction, who have remained silent to the point that they have become physically ill.
Why the conversation still needs to go deeper and wider
Over the past few years, there’s no doubt that the conversation around men’s mental health and wellbeing has opened up, and in a good way. However, what is not being addressed are the really dark thoughts that some men battle with and the fact that it’s not just young men who are struggling.
Middle-aged men can face a web of pressures too: loss of testosterone (yes, men have menopause too) and therefore libido; worries about trying to support a family during the most serious cost of living crisis in modern times; concerns about their relationship with their children.
Breaking the stigma on men’s health
Mental health and wellness problems can have a stigma, often more so in the case of men because of this warped perception about masculinity and strength – the idea that you have to “man up”. Yet that can lead to “man down”, which is something nobody wants to hear. In a survey for the Men’s Health Forum, 34% of men questioned said they would feel embarrassed or ashamed to take time off work for a mental health concern compared to just 13% for a physical injury.
We need to be clear: mental health is health, and it affects every one of us.
Don’t ignore physical symptoms
If you are reading this as a partner, brother, father, son, or friend – it is crucial to reach out if there is anything at all about the body or mind that is worrying you. It might turn out to be nothing, it might be something more serious. You’ll only know if you ask.
One in eight men in the UK suffer from poor mental health and more than three quarters of men have suffered from anxiety, depression or stress at some point in their lives.
The more we talk about the link between physical health and mental health openly, the more men we can help.