The pandemic seems to have led to a shift in the attitude of men towards mental health and the numbers seeking counselling support, says our Deputy Chair Michael Golding.
Michael was commenting on our new statistics released for Men’s Health Week which highlight men’s changing attitudes towards mental health and towards counselling and psychotherapy.
Our Public Perceptions Survey found that 78% of men say it’s more commonplace to discuss mental health than five years ago and that 83% of men say it’s a good idea to seek counselling or psychotherapy for a problem before it gets out of hand.
Michael said: “In recent years it feels I’m being contacted by more men than before.
“My belief is that the pressures of the pandemic and lockdown may have led more men to that tipping point where people start to feel they need to do something about their situation.
“I also wonder if men are being encouraged by their families, and other men, to seek support.”
It’s a view shared by our member Stefan Walters, who said that people in the public eye talking about their experiences has also helped to break down barriers.
Stefan said: “We see male celebrities, sports figures and pop stars increasingly talking about their mental health. We’re seeing it discussed a lot more in the public domain.
“And then we had COVID-19. I think with COVID there was an acknowledgement of this massive shared collective trauma, and people had to speak out.”
Public Perceptions Survey results
Our survey also found that:
- 79% of men agree it’s more socially acceptable to discuss mental health than five years ago
- 69% of men say they’re more aware of mental health issues than five years ago
- 68% of men say there’s less of a stigma around mental health compared to five years ago
- 71% of men say people might be happier if they talked to a counsellor or psychotherapist about their problems
- 69% of men say it’s better for people to talk to someone about their problems rather than to take medication
Men are also more likely to go for therapy now than a decade ago. Our research in 2010 found only 18% of men had been for therapy compared to 27% in 2022. However, women are more likely to go for counselling or psychotherapy (39%).
Michael said: “I’m not aware there is any evidence of there being a gender difference in people’s ability to manage their emotional distress, which leads me to think that men must be experiencing greater barriers to accessing this form of support.
“That more men are seeking out counselling suggests that, hopefully, those barriers are being overcome.”
Our member Andrew Kidd said he believes masculine stereotypes are one of the most significant obstacles to men seeking mental health support.
He said: “For men, therapy can be a liberating place to address the pressures connected with preconceptions and challenges of manhood without being seen as weak.
“It can offer a lens to refine perspectives and transform the way we think about what it means to be a man while helping tear down barriers to accessing support.”
Andrew said that another barrier could be that men do not know what happens in therapy.
“Do we do a good enough job communicating to men what we actually do?" he said.
It’s a thought echoed by Michael, who said that “some men may fear they’ll be forced to talk about things they may not wish to”.
“There’s a sense for me that there’s an anxiety that once in the room the client gives away some degree of autonomy and will no longer be in control of the process,” he said.
“For someone who has only limited control of their present situation this can be a challenge.
“Perhaps if we were able to create a better understanding of what happens in the room, then more men would be willing to take a chance and give it a go.”
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session.
What therapy can help with
An A-Z list of issues and concerns which may be helped by talking to a counsellor.
A message to men
Watch three of our members who have a message for men who are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing