Numerous studies have shown that a silent crisis is happening in men’s mental health. There is still a large stigma surrounding mental health for men, with men having greater difficulty in talking about their own struggles compared to women. In part, this is due to toxic stereotypes of men including “show no weakness” and “boys don’t cry”, and the perception of weakness if you don’t fit the societal behavioural norms for males.
Mental health affects all of us, regardless of gender
Despite mental health affecting us all, men’s mental health is talked about much less, and when it is a lot more negativity often follows. For example, Matt Haig, an amazing author, and advocate of mental health awareness, was quickly labelled as ‘Mr Depression’ after releasing his book “Reasons to stay alive”. In fact, Stephen Fry , who opened up about his manic
depression in 2006, had warned him about becoming known as ‘Mr Depression‘ after reading the book- which is very suggestive of how Stephen Fry may be perceived by many ,despite all his accomplishments.
However, with the set up of charities such as headstogether , and more celebrities from all areas talking more openly about mental health (I will link some below), there is starting to be a shift. Although, this shift seems delayed in the world of academia.
In recent years there has definitely been more of focus on mental health in academic settings, with several amazing mental health support networks across social networking sites being set up (some linked below). But, the number of men talking about mental health is under-represented. The reasons behind this are many and complex, partly as discussed above due to perceptions and stereotypes, and more concerningly, because of potential adverse affects on job progression. Obviously, there is a long way to go for mens mental health, and one of the first step is breaking down the barriers, starting conversations, and sharing experiences.
On that note, it is time to share three accounts on mental health from the perspectives of Men in science. Firstly, all three men have asked to stay anonymous, so please respect this. Secondly, I want to thank these men for kindly agreeing to talk about their experiences within academia so honestly and openly.
I also want to give a special thanks to some of the other people I talked to whilst bringing these accounts together, and helping me understand some of the obstacles men face in academia and towards mental health. I hope that many of you will find these accounts useful- either for yourself or for others. I have also provided a list of some social media accounts specialising in mental health which are great to follow, in addition to some different interviews from high profile men talking about a variety of different mental health problems- and who in so doing, are helping to really open the conversation surrounding men’s mental health.
Finally, there are several ways to seek out professional help if needed, I will link a few websites below (these will be UK focused as that is where I am based). Please remember that seeking help is absolutely not a sign of weakness- in fact its a sign of strength- that you are willing to actively seek help, and get better. Unfortunately, the NHS route for counselling has a huge waiting list (when I tried it was 1.5 years, although this varies based on county), I was able to get private sessions however this is expensive, and outside the capabilities of many- therefore I will also try and link some resources which may be useful in this regard- MIND has some good info on this (click here).
Academic mental health social media accounts to follow:
Blog/podcast to improve mental health in academia
@CactusMHS An initiative set up by cactus global, trying to promote positive mental health attitudes in the
@DragonflyMH : A non-profitorganisation promoting mental health among academics worldwide
Also the hashtag #100voices curated by Dr Zoë Ayres, which shares experiences from 100 researchers over 100 days.
Articles which may be of interest: I have tried to link to articles interviewing/from some high profile men talking about different mental health problems.
Interview with Matt Haig, Author of Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet, (Depression)
Interview with k-pop star Jae from Day6 (Panic disorder)
Interview with Simon Pegg (Depression and addiction)
Interview with Aaron Giles, Author of “How to survive the end of the world, when its all in your head” (Anxiety)
Interview with Stephen Fry (Bipolar disorder)
Interview with Michael Phelps (Depression)
Interview with Zayn Malik (Anxiety)
Brandon Marshall, NFL (Borderline personality disorder)
Kevin Love (Panic attacks)
Even more mental health resources:
Mind, mental health charity (mental health charity)
Male Voiced: Charity focused on men’s eating disorders and body dysmorphia
NHS mental health site: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
NHS counselling: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/counselling/ Has links for self referral via NHS, links to private counselling services as well as charities.