Mental Health Foundations work on men's mental health

November 5, 2019
5 min read

Any approach to mental health that’s going to work must be adapted to the audience – one size doesn’t fit all, whether it’s mental health services, campaigning messages, or community resources. We’ve been working for nearly 70 years now to understand what works in mental health and apply research evidence in practice.

When we consider men’s mental health it’s hard to look beyond the fact that suicide is a leading cause of death for men up to the age of forty, and that the population with the highest frequency of deaths by suicide is men in middle age. If we want to stop men from dying by suicide – and we must – we need to look at what factors affect men’s mental health, and what we can do to enable more men to reach out. When they do, they must be able to access and benefit from mental health services that meet their needs. Too often that isn’t the case. We know that men are less likely to reach out for help and more likely to reach out to the bottle when we are stressed. So how do we address men’s

What have we learnt so far?

We’ve been working on that mission for several years now, blending opportunities to address men specifically with opportunities to include men in our wider programmes. In 2010 we published ‘Grouchy Old Men’ – a guide for services coming into contact with men over 50 to consider their needs in relation to mental health. Ever since, we’ve been looking for ways to engage men with the work that we do.

Our partnership with Thrive LDN has set out to improve the mental health and happiness of Londoners. As part of this work we delivered 17 Community Conversations, asking over 1,000 people what would improve their community's mental health. We had lots of feedback about damaging 'macho' and high stress job cultures in male-dominated work places such as construction, City finance and from Transport for London bus drivers. Recommendations include supporting employers with better mental health toolkits and strategies to reduce stress and ill health.

Training - men and workplace mental health

These findings fit well with work we are already doing in our workplace programmes – creating films for Royal Mail Group and Mace Group to enable a largely male workforce to start to talk about mental health, in the context of work to improve mental health in those businesses. This year we’ve been delivering line manager training to hundreds of managers at Yorkshire Building Society and food services company Brakes. The training uses realistic case study scenarios to explore key topics on workplace mental health – including both suicide and unwillingness to seek help amongst men.

Peer support - prisons

One of the approaches that we have specialised in is peer support and self-management. Our Welsh self-management programme for people with long term mental health problems led to an opportunity to take the approach into Parc Prison – an all-male environment. 120 prisoners received training on self-management, with 16 trained as facilitators to promote self-management in the prison community. Wellbeing scores improved, and most prisoners had achieved their goals when followed up.

Peer support - fathers

When we transferred the self-management approach to single parents, we found it harder to reach single dads. We are currently scoping ways to better reach fathers at every stage of the parenting journey to support their mental health needs and enable them to support the mental health of their children.

Peer support - Comhar men's groups

We are partnering with icap (Immigration Counselling and Psychotherapy) to deliver 'Comhar men's groups' self-management courses for Irish men in mid-life. We hope that this approach will help men who have often silently faced childhood trauma, and mental ill health for years to build skills and confidence in a safe space.

Co-produced guides - supporting the farming community

We created a guide with Public Health Wales, which aims to support farming communities at times of uncertainty, by providing an action framework to support the mental health and well-being of farmers and their families.

Farmers and those living in rural communities in Wales are facing a period of significant uncertainty, in the short to medium term, with a potential negative impact on their mental health and well-being. In such times, efforts to address the underlying causes of anxiety and distress, and support mental health and well-being should be intensified.

Read the full guide

Men’s mental health matters!

We will continue to bring together research evidence with the perspective of people with lived experience to develop programmes help prevent mental health problems – whether that is growing resilience for all men in the workplace or reaching the most vulnerable men in the country and helping them rebuild their mental health.

Help us to continue this work.

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Need support?

If you yourself 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.

  • If you need someone to talk to then Samaritans are available on 116 123 (UK) for free, 24/7. They are there to talk to, listen and they won't judge or tell you what to do.
  • C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58 (UK). They are available 5pm-midnight 365 days a year.
  • For support in a crisis, Text Shout to 85258. If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support.  Shout can help with urgent issues such as: Suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying, relationship challenges.

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