Home Male Psychology New Study Reveals Gap in Men’s Mental Health Literacy and Help-Seeking Behaviours

New Study Reveals Gap in Men’s Mental Health Literacy and Help-Seeking Behaviours

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Recent research, published in Psychreg Journal of Psychology,  has shone a spotlight on an urgent issue: despite males accounting for roughly 75% of suicides and half of these implicating mental disorders like depression and anxiety, increased awareness of these symptoms among men does not necessarily translate to an increase in help-seeking behaviours.

The study, conducted in the North of England, utilised focus groups composed of men with and without formal mental health education. It highlighted four primary themes: sex differences, knowledge, individuality, and influences on help-seeking. Crucially, it identified barriers to help-seeking behaviours, revealing that mental health information, support, and treatment often fail to cater to male needs.

As mental health conditions gain more recognition, the consistently high suicide rates – about 5,000 annually in England alone over the last 40 years – underscore the need for action. This urgency is compounded by the fact that, despite more awareness and interventions, around 75% of suicides are by males. These statistics indicate that suicide is a gendered issue and that existing strategies may not be reaching men effectively.

The male-only sample was selected to better understand men’s reluctance to engage in help-seeking behaviours. From their discussions, participants shared the perception that support services prioritise female mental health while overlooking males. This bias appeared to deter participants from seeking help, reinforcing the stigma that men should deal with mental health difficulties privately.

Another theme that emerged was a perceived lack of individuality in treatment and support. Participants expressed that the “one-size fits all” approach to mental health does not work. In other words, mental health interventions and resources need to be more customised, acknowledging the unique experiences and needs of different demographics.

Despite both groups – those with and without formal mental health education – demonstrating knowledge of anxiety and depression symptoms, this did not necessarily promote help-seeking behaviours. Both groups also had extensive first-hand experience of anxiety and/or depression, suggesting that personal exposure to mental health issues might be as crucial in promoting help-seeking behaviours as formal education.

The research revealed that barriers to help-seeking often increased feelings of worthlessness, thereby intensifying mental health difficulties. While an increased disorder awareness might not directly lead to help-seeking, it could potentially increase optimism and hope for the future, thereby reducing suicidal ideation or acts.

This study underscores the importance of tailoring mental health research, interventions, and treatment to better suit men’s needs. It advocates for further research into the unique needs and preferences of men, ultimately to improve existing services and public awareness.

These findings provide valuable insight into the complex issue of male suicide. While increased mental health literacy is an important step, it’s clear that a more nuanced, individual, and gender-sensitive approach is crucial to closing the gap between awareness and help-seeking behaviours among men. The study thus presents a strong call to action: it’s high time we rethink and redesign our mental health strategies to better serve men’s mental health needs.

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