Mental health is determined by biological, psychological, social, economic, and environmental factors which interact in complex ways. For research purposes to gain a greater understanding of mental health, we have to investigate the relationship it has with gender but is this strong emphasis on gender ignoring the reality that 1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health issue in 1 year – whether that be male or female.
There are numerous discussions on the impact that gender stereotypes has on men accessing the appropriate support and services to aid in treating their mental health, this uncovered that men are more reluctant than women to speak out, through fears of appearing weak or the negative associated stigma. The ongoing belief that mental health issues are more common amongst women than men itself is a reflection of assumptions about male-female differences. This could be linked to the reason why women being more likely to receive treatment for all mental health conditions compared to men. In reality, various evidence has suggested that although both genders suffer equally from mental health issues, they suffer from different maladies.
In recent years we have seen an increased emphasis on men’s mental health, with numerous organisations promoting the need for support for men struggling with mental health issues. The Office of National Statistics recorded the male suicide rate in England and Wales was the highest it had been since 2000, with 16.9 deaths per 100,000. However, suicide statistics reveal that women are around three times more likely to attempt suicide, is this being recognised and treated with the same attention? Both men and women suffer with mental health issues, but changes in societal attitudes or expectations surrounding gender have enabled for a larger, more open discussion on the topic.
If mental health can impact anyone, surely gender should not matter, we should provide the same support for all individuals as we’re all in this together. Results from various studies have represented that there are no differences overall in men and women’s rates of psychopathology meaning that not one gender is worse off than the other. Therefore, there needs to be great emphasis on both men and women feeling they can speak out if they are struggling and access the appropriate services, not specific attention given to one gender as being considered more deserving than the other.
Grace Farrar is the coordinator for Unmasked.