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How Does Mental Health Stigma Affect Men?

As we head into World Wellbeing Week 2023, it's important to reflect on why awareness weeks like this exist in the first place. Why do we need to raise awareness of wellbeing and mental health? The answer points to the current stigma surrounding mental health. But what is the stigma around mental health? And how does this stigma affect men and young boys?

While mental health is a universal concern, the unique challenges faced by men often result in them avoiding help and support. In this blog post, we will explore how mental health stigma impacts men, discuss the signs of mental illness in men, highlight men's mental health issues, and emphasise the importance of prioritising men's mental health during this World Wellbeing Week.

3 men sat on a sofa, smiling and laughing with each other. The man furthest left is on a laptop, the man in the middle is holding a glass mug of coffee, and the man furthest right is writing on a notebook.

Understanding men and mental health

During World Wellbeing Week 2023 (which takes place from 26 June - 2 July), it is crucial to recognise that men encounter specific barriers when it comes to mental health. Societal expectations and gender norms often discourage men from openly expressing their emotions, leading to them suppressing their feelings and feeling discouraged to confide in friends and family. This is often referred to as 'toxic masculinity' (although we prefer the term 'unhealthy masculinity' which we explain in an earlier blog post).

Toxic masculinity can prevent many men from acknowledging their mental health struggles or seeking help, fearing judgement or being perceived as weak ('unmasculine'). By addressing these challenges, we can foster an environment that supports and promotes men's mental health and wellbeing, redefining what 'being a man' actually means.

Signs of mental illness in men

Identifying the signs of mental illness in men is vital for early intervention, support and effective care. However, it's important to understand that men may exhibit symptoms differently from women due to the gender norms and expectations of men explained above.

World Wellbeing Week is a prime opportunity to learn about the specific indicators of mental health issues in men. While each person is unique, some common signs include:

  • Anger and irritability: Men may express emotional distress through anger, aggression, or irritability, rather than openly acknowledging feelings of sadness or anxiety.

  • Physical symptoms: Mental health struggles in men may manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, or unexplained aches and pains, instead of verbalising their emotional challenges.

  • Substance abuse: Men may turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of self-medication, attempting to cope with underlying mental health issues. This can be really tricky to identify as alcohol is so embedded in British social culture, but when someone is using alcohol to forget about or cope with something, rather than for enjoyment, that's when it's become a by-product of poor mental health.

  • Social withdrawal: Men facing mental health issues may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves, avoiding interactions that could potentially expose their vulnerabilities.

  • Risky behaviour: Engaging in reckless activities, excessive gambling, or other high-risk behaviours can sometimes be indicative of underlying mental health struggles.

Men's mental health issues

World Wellbeing Week 2023 presents an opportunity to shed light on the range of mental health issues that men face and encourage understanding and support. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the most common challenges. Additionally, men are more likely to experience substance abuse disorders and have higher rates of suicides. Addressing men's mental health issues holistically requires breaking down societal expectations and the stigma surrounding mental health.

This is something our expert facilitators cover in our Masculinity and Wellbeing workshop, where participants get to explore the role of masculinity in mental health (particularly help-seeking, emotional suppression, and shame).

Male mental health stigma

Society often perpetuates harmful stereotypes and misconceptions, expecting men to be strong, resilient, and self-reliant. It's these expectations which discourage men from seeking help or expressing vulnerability, reinforcing the notion that mental health struggles are a sign of weakness.

A person sat on the edge of a bed in a dimly lit room. The person is resting their elbows on their knees and has their head down, looking at the floor.

Why is men's mental health important?

Let World Wellbeing Week 2023 be a call to emphasise the vital significance of men's mental health. By addressing men's mental health, we are in fact contributing to better relationships, overall well-being, and a healthier society for all.

What can we do?

Reach out to your male friends. Ask them how they're doing. Sometimes it's as simple as making someone feel that their problems will be listened to, respected, and free from judgement. (Check out how Karamo from Queer Eye explains this).

In addition to checking in on our male friends, it is crucial that we lead by example. By demonstrating openness and vulnerability ourselves, we break the stereotypes and create an environment that encourages others to do the same.


If you're interested in booking one of Voicebox's workshops or assemblies which explore mental health and masculinity, you can fill out a booking form here.

If you have a question or would like to chat through something with one of the team, you can book a free consultation here.


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