Different factors can affect your health – your diet, the amount of exercise you get, where you live, and more. We all at times behave in ways that can detrimental to our emotional and physical wellbeing. However, evidence suggests that men are more likely to neglect their emotional and physical wellbeing.
For example. men in the UK are currently twice as likely to have diabetes – and twice as likely not to know they have diabetes – they’re more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to smoke, eat too much salt, too little fruit and veg, drink alcohol (and drink dangerous amounts of alcohol) and to have liver disease.
The leading cause of death for men under 35, though, is suicide.
Although they make up only a quarter of all people who are treated for depression, three quarters of all people who die from suicide are male. There are probably many different reasons for this, but it’s often thought two major factors are that men are often less aware of being unwell, and also less likely to visit their GP even if they are aware; there can be a lot of stigma around asking for help when you’re a man.
Stress affects all of us. It’s a natural reaction to difficult situations – our pulse quickens, our heart rate increases, and our bodies flood with adrenaline and cortisol – stress hormones. This can be helpful if you’re battling a tiger, but it’s not much good against an unexpected bill, or unpleasant e-mail from your boss. Not only that, being stressed long-term is also actively bad for your physical health – affecting your immune system and heart, among other things – and your mental health.
Tips on managing your stress:
- Connect– talking to people about how you’re feeling can help a lot, even if it’s just chatting over the washing up or a computer game, but if you don’t feel up to that then just being around people can help – going to the pub with work colleagues, joining a board games club, or maybe volunteering for a charity. A lot of organisations run activities, support groups and meet-ups for people with things in common, too. Lewes and Worthing both have Men’s Sheds, a communal garden shed, providing tools and space for men to work on projects alone or together, such as woodworking, bike repair, gardening, electronics, boat renovation, and more.
- Get active– it can feel hard to do much when you’re feeling low or stressed, but if you can, even something as simple as walking to the shops and back can help produce endorphins – giving you a short-term burst of happiness – and improve your physical and mental health in the long term. If it’s sunny out, why not call up some friends and go kick a ball around? You could give Mental Wellbeing Football a go, or check out BLAGSS if you’re LGBTQ+.
- Keep learning– learning can help boost your self-confidence and self-esteem, and give you a sense of purpose. There are plenty of adult learning courses out there, as well as lots of resources online if you want to teach yourself something new, but you can make learning part of your life in lots of small ways as well – practice your Settlers of Catan skills in a weekly games night with friends, get the recipe book out and try cooking up an authentic curry, or start trying out the sudoku in the paper in each week. Men aged 50+ might want to check out Bread Talk – baking and chatting in Hove once a week.
- Give to others– whether just by doing a small favour for a friend, or by making a larger commitment and volunteering for a charity, doing things for other people can help you feel good about yourself, and about the world.
- Take notice– we can spend much of our lives on auto-pilot – you might find it useful to stop and really notice what’s going on around you, and what you’re feeling. This is a technique called mindfulness.
These are known as the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and were developed as a result of a project on ways people can help manage their mental wellbeing. There are other things you might like to consider as well, like:
- Food– what you eat can affect your mood a lot. Take a look here for information on using food as a tool to keep you feeling good. Keeping a food and mood diary [pdf] might help you see if how you eat is affecting how you feel.
- Do what you enjoy– it may sound obvious, but it’s easy to focus on your duties and chores and not make time for yourself. You could learn something new (either teaching yourself, or maybe doing a course), try volunteering somewhere, join a club, or even just make the time to spend with your partner or partners.
Why not check out Time To Change, as well, a collaboration between national Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and make a pledge to end mental health stigma and discrimination, or take a look at some tips on how to be there for friends and family with mental health problems?
The more you talk about mental health, the more you learn and the more it brings it out. It’s a relief, like a safety valve. And the more that you communicate with people, whether it be strangers or friends, you suddenly realise, we’re not on our own.
– Derek Martin, Eastenders Actor and Time to Change supporter
There’s no shame in struggling sometimes – we all do, regardless of gender – and talking to someone about it now can help stop it becoming a bigger problem down the line. When we let feelings build up, sometimes they end up being expressed in ways that aren’t helpful.
Everyone gets angry sometimes, but if you find yourself getting angry very often, or very easily, and it’s causing problems for yourself or those around you, then you might want to try some of the options available to help you manage your anger. In the short-term, if you learn what your warning signs are that you’re getting angry (e.g. your heart beating faster, your shoulders are tensed, your fists are clenched), then when you notice them you could try taking a time out, leaving the situation, and maybe try some deep breathing, or find a task to focus on, until you feel calmer. You may find getting going for a run or brisk walk to work out how you’re feeling can help.
Some people find regular exercise can help a lot, and there are several options for doing that on a budget; many gyms also provide cheaper membership to people with disabilities, or who are on a low income. You can also ask your GP about whether the Prescription for Exercise scheme might be right for you.
National Mind and the NHS have more detailed information and advice about anger and how to manage it. You might want to try CBT or psychotherapy, in which case you could investigate the free and low-cost talking therapy options listed on our directory. For 18-25 year olds, Right Here run a 6 week anger management group called ‘Keep Calm and Carry On‘, and BHT sometimes run anger management groups for men; contact them on 01273 929371, or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in taking part, or would like to know when the next one is running.
Unfortunately, there are no regular low-cost/free anger management courses in Brighton and Hove at the moment, but it may be worth asking your GP in case this changes.
If you can afford full cost courses then searching online brings up several options, but they can be very expensive.
If you’d like to talk to a doctor about managing stress and anger, but are reluctant to see your GP, you might find Men’s Health Forum’s Stress Workshop on Wednesdays helpful – you can chat online, anonymously, with an expert – Dr. Luke Sullivan – or drop him an e-mail any time, and usually get a response with 72 hours.
Men are often concerned that people who’ve been drinking or using drugs may be turned away from mental health services and find it difficult to access support. However, there is a range of support available both locally and nationally.
Drinking and Substance Misuse
A drink every now and then probably doesn’t do much harm, but sometimes that occasional drink can turn into a few drinks – or more – every day, or a heavy drinking session every weekend. When things are tough, it can feel like it makes things easier not to be sober – but when your drinking starts affecting your relationships, your work, or your health, it might be worth reconsidering whether it’s really making things easier after all.
The NHS recommends men drink no more than 3-4 units a day, which is about 2 pints of lager – regularly drinking even this much comes with some serious health risks – you’re about twice as likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat, to develop liver cirrhosis, or to have high blood pressure – as well as being at risk of alcohol-associated issues such as fatigue, depression, weight gain, poor sleep and sexual problems. The risks get much worse, the more you drink. Alcohol can also affect your appearance, causing enlargement of the breasts, or ‘man boobs’, loss of hair on the body, withering of the testicles, and rosacea (permanent reddening of the face), amongst other things.
Why not check out DrinkAware’s 7 day calculator to work out how much you’re drinking, and how much it could be affecting you? The NHS also have several interactive tools for tracking your drinking, including apps, a desktop tracker, and a self-assessment tool.
As well as drinking more, men may also be using more of other substances – a 2014 government study found men were three times as likely to report frequent drug use in the past year. For information about different substances, including possible risks, take a look at Think Drink Drugs or Talk To Frank .
If you have some concerns about your drinking or substance use – or someone else’s – there are several options available to you:
- Alcoholics Anonymous – the AA have a national helpline and e-mail, if you’d like to talk through your drinking, and discuss how they might be able to help, and you can search on their website for a group near you. There are also 12 step groups for other substances, such as Cocaine Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous.
- Al-Anon – Al-Anon family groups provide support to anyone whose life has been affected by someone else’s drinking.
- Drinkline – Phoneline providing advice and information to anyone who has concerns about their own or someone else’s drinking.
- Pavilions – NHS Drug and Alcohol Service for those aged 18+, living in Brighton and Hove, providing a large range of services.
- BHT – BHT provide three services which provide safe accommodation and support people through detox and rehabilitation.
- Equinox – Equinox provide supported housing to men who are homeless and have long term, severe problems with alcohol; they also have a multiple and complex needs team, supporting people who are experiencing at least three of the following: homelessness; reoffending; substance misus; mental ill health.
- ru-ok – ru-ok works with under 18s in Brighton and Hove whose lives are affected by substances misuse.
You can find more services on our online directory. Mind in Brighton and Hove also runs a user involvement group for people who are in recovery from alcohol or substance misuse and also experience mental distress or a mental health problem of any kind – called SUSTAIN – Service User Support Training Advocacy and Involvement .
Another barrier to getting help is not realising you could even have a particular kind of issue – or recognising that you might be struggling – a lot of people think only women can get eating disorders, when in fact men make up a quarter of the 2.7 million people in the UK with an eating disorder. Organisations such as Beat have been working to reduce the stigma, running a campaign last year called #BeatTheSilence, intended to raise awareness, and encourage men to speak up about having eating disorders.
— Beat (@beatED) November 14, 2014
You can get an eating disorder at any age, but men are most likely to develop one between the ages of 14 and 25. Occupations that require you to be slim or low in body fat, for example body building, wrestling, dancing, swimming or athletics, put you at greater risk. Being overweight and bullied or teased for your weight, or dieting, are both common triggers as well.
Eating disorders present themselves in many different ways, you might feel a need to starve yourself, misuse laxatives, to over-exercise, to over-eat, you could find yourself bingeing in your sleep, eating things that would not normally be considered food, controlling your insulin to try to lose weight (if you’re diabetic), or developing a fixation on eating specific foods because they are considered ‘pure’ and ‘healthy’. Beat The Silence suggest the Scoff test as an initial quiz that can be helpful if you think you might have an eating disorder:
- Do you make yourself Sick because you’re feeling stuffed?
- Do you feel like you’ve lost Control over how much you eat?
- Have you lost more than One stone over the last 3 months?
- Do you think you’re Fat when everyone says you’re skinny?
- Does Food dominate your life?
This is not a diagnosis but if the answer’s “yes” to two or more of these, think about giving us a ring.
If you want more information or support there are several options available:
- Mind – National Mind provide information about eating problems, including what types there are, and some self-help suggestions
- Men Get Eating Disorders Too – MGEDT are a Brighton charity, whose aim is to support men with eating disorders, as well as their families and carers. They have information about eating disorders and how to manage them, as well as providing several services: a forum for online peer support, a live chat 1 to 1 peer support service, and a monthly in-person peer support group for men aged 18+ with eating disorders (as well as groups for carers, and for women).
- Beat – A national charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape, they provide online peer support through forums and chatrooms, as well as helplines (phone and e-mail) for adults and young people.
- Food Addict in Recovery Anonymous – a 12 step group for anyone with food obsession, overeating, under-eating and bulimia.
- BHEDS – NHS service providing treatment and support for people in Brighton and Hove with mild to moderate eating disorders
- Understanding Your Eating Difficulties [pdf] – pamphlet produced by Brighton University with information and self help advice
Sexual and domestic abuse is another issue that people often don’t realize affects men too. Women may be more likely to experience abuse, but it happens to men as well – a lot more often than many people realize – and it is just as traumatic and upsetting, whatever your gender. It can be particularly hard for men to seek help, or even fully realize they’ve been abused, if they’ve come to assume that sexual abuse is something that only happens to women, or that being physically attacked by a woman doesn’t qualify as ‘domestic abuse’. What’s more, men are often unaware that there is help out there for both men and women that are experiencing any form of abuse.
Sexual and Domestic Abuse
If you are worried your abuser might have access to your computer, then before going any further you may wish to take a look at these guidelines for covering your tracks online.
Sexual abuse or sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature where one person has not consented – this may be because they’re too young to consent, or because they’re not able to fully understand what is happening (e.g. because of drugs, alcohol or mental illness). It is still abuse if there was no physical violence, and people can be coerced in other ways, such as emotional manipulation, threats, or blackmail. Sexual abuse doesn’t always involve touching, either – making someone watch, say or do something sexual they don’t want to is still abuse.
Domestic abuse is any kind of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship, or family. There are different kinds of abuse, such as psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional (amongst others). Just because you’re not being hit, it doesn’t mean you’re not being abused.
You can be abused by people of any gender or background.
- Is your partner willing to compromise?
- Does your partner let you feel comfortable being yourself?
- Is your partner able to admit being wrong?
- Is your partner trusting and understanding?
- Do you agree with this statement: My partner never tries to control what I wear, where I go or what I do
- Do you agree with this statement: My partner does not physically hurt me
- Do you agree with this statement: My partner does not emotionally hurt me (by calling you names, threatening you, making you feel bad)
- Does your partner try to resolve arguments and conflict by talking honestly?
- Do you feel safe being with your partner?
- Does your partner respect your feelings, your opinions and your friends?
- Does your partner accept you saying no to things you don’t want to do (like sex)?
- Does your partner accept you changing your mind?
- Does your partner respect your wishes if you want to end the relationship?
When someone loves you, you feel safe, respected and free to be yourself. You shouldn’t be made to feel scared, intimidated or controlled.
If you have answered ‘no‘ to any of these questions, you could be in an abusive relationship and may want to speak to someone.
- NHS – information on domestic violence against men.
- Men’s Advice Line – advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence, with information online, as well as a freephone number, e-mail and online chat.
- Men’s Health Forum – advice on how to tell if you’re being abused, and what to do.
- Rise – Brighton domestic abuse charity, providing support to people of any gender, including services specifically for men. They aim to provide advice, initial assessment and signposting to men via their community worker at A&E, their weekly domestic abuse surgery, and their helpline. They also have specialist support for LGBTQI people.
- Victim Support – support and information for men who have experienced rape or sexual assault, including what the process is if you choose to go to the police, and what happens after that.
- Saturn Centre – a range of medical services available to people in Sussex aged 14 or over who have been raped or sexually assaulted, regardless of whether they choose to involve the police, including forensic medical examination, support worker, Sexual Offences Liaison Officer, medical care and risk assessment.
- Mankind – Brighton charity, providing support and information to men who have been sexually abused. Free 1-on-1 and group counselling, as well as support for partners, family and friends.
- Survivors’ Network – Brighton charity, supporting survivors of sexual and abuse and violence, including an independent advocacy service for people over the age of 14 who have experienced sexual violence and are considering reporting it to the police, and free Young People’s Counselling service for 14-18 year olds of any gender who have experienced rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, unwanted sexual contact or are confused about a sexual experience. (Over 18s may be asked to make a donation based on what they can afford.)
- NHS Abuse leaflet [pdf] – free self-help leaflet for adults who were physically, emotionally or sexually abused as children.
- Survivors UK – National male rape and sexual abuse charity, providing information, as well as SMS and web-chat.
- NAPAC – the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, providing online resources and a free support phoneline.
Whatever you’ve been through, talking to someone might help – counselling is available free from the NHS Wellbeing service (ask your GP for a referral, or use the form on the website), or alternatively check out our online directory of free and low-cost counselling services available in Brighton and Hove.
Whilst the high suicide rate for men in general is of important significance, it is worth noting that for gay and trans men in particular it is likely to be even higher; we don’t know exactly how many LGBT people have completed suicide, but over a third of LGBT youth have attempted to end their lives, and up to half of all young trans people. There may be laws in the UK to protect LGBT people, and the stigma isn’t as bad as it once was, but it still isn’t always easy to belong to a minority sexuality or gender.
Gender and Sexuality
Being LGBTQ+ can add stress in a number of ways – if your friends or family don’t know, it can feel like you’re living a lie, pretending to be someone you’re not. If they do know, they may not be supportive, which can be very upsetting, or worse, they can become abusive; this can also cause practical problems if you’re financially dependent upon them. You can face direct discrimination and abuse, and even well-meaning people can be hurtful and prejudiced without realising. Accessing services can be harder, when you don’t know if they’ll be sensitive and respectful. All of this is on top of managing dysphoria if you are trans, and any confusion you might feel about your gender identity or sexual orientation.
The good news is, this being the ‘gay capital’ of the UK, with the highest proportion of same-sex households in the country, you are likely to face less discrimination and ignorance than in many places, and there is quite a lot of support out there!
Here are a few organisations that you might find helpful:
- FTM Brighton– a group for FTM transmen, genderqueer people, and those questioning their gender identity, aiming to support all trans masculine people, regardless of whether you intend to transition
- Brighton Gems– a social group for elderly gay men
- Pace Health– offers e-mail and phone support to LGBT+ people who need support with issues to do with family and/or relationships
- QTIPOC– a supportive Facebook group for queer, trans* and intersex people of colour
- Pavilions– substance misuse service, they provide support specifically to LGBT people via their LGBT Worker
- Rise UK– have a specialist service providing support specifically to LGBTQI people experiencing domestic violence and abuse
- Terrence Higgins Trust– provides free counselling and emotional support to gay men who are living with HIV, or have questions about sexuality, regardless of whether you are HIV+
- Switchboard– helpline and online chat, also provides low-cost counselling by LGBTQ counsellors, and runs a group for LGBT men aged 50+
- MindOut– a mental health service by and for LGBTQ people, with a range of services, such as advice and information, advocacy, peer support, suicide prevention, and online chat.
- Allsorts– a project aiming to support LGBTU people aged 26 or under
- BLAGSS– a sports and social group for LGBT people (£12/year membership, free one day trial)
- Partnership Community Safety Team– advice and support for victims of anti-social behaviour, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and domestic violence
Take a look at our directory for even more services available to support LGBTQ+ people living in Brighton and Hove.
Belonging to any kind of minority can be difficult – people from Black And Minority Ethnicities are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems, and more likely to be admitted to hospital, probably in part due to the prejudice and discrimination they can still face. Take a look at our directory for some resources that might be helpful.
Why not take a Man MOT online now with the Men’s Health Forum, to see if you could be doing more to look after yourself? E-mail a GP, or chat online live on Monday or Thursday evenings, to discuss any concerns you might have, anonymously, from your own home.
If you’re not sure what to do and would like to discuss your options with someone, please feel free to call and make an appointment to speak with one of our Advice and Information workers on 01273 66 69 50, email: email@example.com or alternatively, complete the form here.