A report released by the Samaritans organisation, in June this year (2015), highlights the problem of men turning to alcohol instead of talking about their problems. What is more worrying, according to the report, this increases the risk of suicide.
The Samaritans suggest that the government should reconsider their response to the nation’s unhealthy drinking culture.
It is well known that the biggest killer of men between the age of 18 and 34 is suicide. What the Samaritans are suggesting is that there should be more communication between mental health teams and drug and alcohol teams. Unfortunately, with recent austerity measures, agencies such as drug and alcohol and mental health teams are being cut to the bare bone. The question here is how one gets men to engage, in talking about themselves (fundamentally, how does one get men talking).
An interesting point is raised in the report, commenting that masculinity plays a great deal in the way men see themselves. The report suggests that men will often compare themselves, to their perceived model of what a man should be, often this can be a distorted image, of a man being powerful, white, rich, good-looking, and heterosexual. The reports suggest that when men are not reaching this model, often they can become filled with a sense of shame guilt and ultimately defeat.
Being a breadwinner is often central to being a man, particularly for blue-collar workers. Frequently, the loss of control due to a depressive episode or crisis will make a man feel chaotic, this often, can push men towards suicidal behaviours in an effort to regain some sort of control over their life. Regularly men, searching for relief from the psychological pain and the feeling of loss of control, will seek out substances such as drugs or alcohol, or both, as a way of coping.
Throughout childhood, boys are taught to be a man, looking to his father for guidelines, for how this is. Undoubtedly some of these messages can be, mixed. Furthermore, if the young boy’s father is not around, some of these messages can come from external forces, such as culture, social media or TV.
The report suggests that men in midlife, often seek out their partner as emotional support, suggesting that the man loses support from his peers after the age of 30. The report goes on to say that men traditionally seek out companionship, in doing an activity, but these relationships can often be superficial.
Traditionally, men have a poor view of psychotherapy/ counselling, coming to therapy only in extreme circumstances. This is something that we at Eleos counselling are working very hard to correct.
At the time of writing, unemployment in the UK is higher amongst men than it is amongst women. Traditional jobs, such as manufacturing are changing rapidly, with the onset of new technology. Added to this uncertainty, such factors as zero hours contracts, temporary employment, and for some, self-employment, to name but a few.
Perhaps one of the ways to engage men in any of form meaningful communication regarding their feelings, is to offer group therapy. The idea of self-supporting groups is not a new one, you only have to think of the 12 step program, and the tremendous support that gives, to see this could work, if marketed correctly.
Traditionally, men in the UK are Conservative bunch, the report suggests that men in the UK are caught between the strong silent type and the new man; being able to speak about one’s feelings openly. At Eleos counselling, we are looking at new ways of engaging men in therapy, rather than being reactive, we would like to be more proactive.
If this article has raised questions for you and you would like to talk to someone, then possibly Eleos counselling can help. If you would like to clink on the link below to be taken to the Eleos counselling main website.