What is it about men?

One of my challenges as a GP is getting men to understand that mental health (and sometimes physical health problems too) are not due to a fundamental weakness. I can find this an uphill struggle because it doesn’t always come naturally to them to accept this and be open and talk about the difficulties.

We have 3 sons, now young men and thankfully I can see that we are moving towards a more emotionally literate society. But men in middle age are particularly challenged by being sandwiched between 2 generations – the strong, silent view of masculinity of our parents and grandparents and the generally more emotionally expressive younger generation.

Men do risk comparing themselves to their own gold standard of a decisive, independent, invincible man who doesn’t need help. As borne out by the statistics the desperation from unsought help can tragically lead to suicide and is the leading cause of death in men aged 40 -44 years. The latest Statistical Bulletin indicates that there is a rise in suicide in slightly older men, and shows that more men aged under 50 in England and Wales now die from suicide than from road deaths, coronary heart disease, accidental poisoning or liver disease.

Suicide rates in men are more than three times higher than in women.

Men will often ‘get by’ for some considerable time using tactics such as overworking, numbing pain with alcohol and/or drugs, or using escape for example through having an affair.

My male patients don’t always present with depressed mood or anxiety either. They will often present with anger and irritability and are often sent along by another (usually female) family member. Interestingly depression is often described as ‘anger turned inwards.’

It’s helpful to understand that spending time with a trusted professional in a confidential setting and having the opportunity to find solutions to problems does not just have a positive impact on them but also improves the lot of the people around them too.

Effective treatment, whether medication or CBT or a combination of both +/- hypnotherapy results in improved mood, less anxiety, and consequently less pain, trouble, and heartache for all concerned.

When a man comes forward for help –I see it as progress and not weakness.


  1. Me again! This has struck a chord! It’s not just that men don’t talk. Many don’t listen. I told a friend once that I felt unwell. “Typical bloke!” was her reply. I thought about her the next day as they loaded me into the ambulance. I had a stone in a saliva duct. My head had become infected due to stagnant saliva. The term “manflu” should be banned. If we want men to talk we have to start listening. Many men commit suicide not because they don’t talk but because they don’t feel anyone will listen. My wife is wonderful but I’ve always said “When she’s upset she cries but when I’m upset she cries.”

  2. Er I’ve just posted a comment and deliberately didn’t try to advertise my book BUT this article resonates so strongly with my chapters on gender and eds and being depressed. I was misdiagnosed. I attended a boy’s grammar school. I couldn’t play rugby. I couldn’t achieve academically because of absences. My dad was a bricklayer. I tried to help but it hurt my skin. I got married and my wife’s brothers were miners. I felt so inadequate. I had no help whatsoever. It was very hard. I got blamed for being angry.Then I found writing. In one of y chapters I redefine what it is to be a man. I’ve written 2 books and have plans for others.

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