Globally, every minute, a man dies by suicide. In Ireland, 75% of suicides are men.
Irish men have higher death rates than women at all ages, and for all leading causes of death. Men are more likely than women to engage in risky behaviours such as speeding, drink driving, not wearing seat belts, and misuse of alcohol and drugs and are more likely to be overweight or obese.
And men in Ireland are four times more likely to die of suicide than women.
Unfortunately, most men tend to see health as “women’s business”. They take few preventive health measures and are less willing to seek medical help. Late presentation to health services by men leads to a large number of problems becoming untreatable.
Because of this most women feel helpless when they can see a man in their life struggling, especially if it is their mental health
that is a cause for concern.
How can I support a loved one, when he doesn’t want the help?
The best way to support a man is to let him know that you are there for him. No matter what. Communicating that is very important. If a guy in your life is showing symptoms of depression, it’s time to have that conversation.
It’s important to know that your job isn’t to diagnose his symptoms or serve as his therapist, but instead to encourage and support him to take the steps needed to get his health back.
Keep in mind, the stigma around mental illness makes it tough for a man to acknowledge that he might be depressed. Men face a lot of pressure within our society to push through tough times, bear extra weight, and be the support everyone else can lean on.
Be assured that bringing up the subject won’t make things worse. The only way things get worse is when you don’t talk about it and ignore the problems a guy might be dealing with.
How to start?
1. Voice your concerns
It may be more productive to start a conversation about specific changes in his mood or behaviour that you noticed, rather than suggesting that he might be depressed.
What you can say:
- “You seem quite stressed these days. Is anything up?”
- “You’re looking pretty tired these days. Is there something wearing you down?”
It's OK for men not to feel okay.
Men don't like to admit to themselves or to anyone else that there may be something wrong. There is a perception that feeling upset or down is a form of weakness.
It takes courage and a different kind of strength to be vulnerable and to accept that "It's OK not to feel OK". Try to remind him of that.
It is okay to ask for help
Some years ago there was a narrower view of what masculinity was about but very high-profile men like Bressie and David Beckham have all talked about issues that men were ashamed to talk about years ago. They have made amazing changes in people’s perception of men’s mental health. Asking for help in tough times is a sign of strength remind him of that.
Remind them daily, they’re not alone
Sometimes, men are not good at keeping in regular contact with those who are close to them. But strong family ties and supportive friends can help immensely with the stresses of everyday life.
The high suicide rate amongst middle-aged males, especially those in isolated rural communities, shows the need to maintain contact with friends and family who can make a person feel included and cared for.
Regular exercise can really give mental health a boost. Find something active they enjoy - sport, swimming, walking or cycling and suggest doing it with them once or twice a week. Studies have shown improved fitness, better social networking and improved self-esteem on the part of formerly inactive men who took up a form of exercise.
Food is a huge part
Food is extremely important for your mental health – but studies show that men's diets are generally less healthy than women's, with more fats, sugars and processed foods, as well as lower than recommended levels of fruit and vegetables.
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that's good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
Sleep is a crucial part of our daily lives. It helps restore energy, keep memory functioning properly, and helps to heal our bodies. When sleep is disrupted or deprived, we don't feel as alert, we are easily agitated and all of our actions seem slow.
Put the screens away and try to get him into a good routine of sleep. Going to bed together and aiming for 7-9 hours per night with have huge benefits.
Always remember you’re not alone. There is countless helplines and support groups out there. Remember to look after yourself first before you prioritize anyone else’s health.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/lovelifeandlittleones/