Cultural expectations, over-looked symptoms of depression in men, and the need for increased funding to provide specialist and more accessible counselling services for men. These were among issues highlighted by our member Anthony Davis during a Parliamentary committee hearing.
Anthony represented BACP at the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s hearing on men’s health, in a session that focussed on mental health and suicide rates.
He was invited to attend the committee after his involvement in our R.A.I.S.E. campaign, which was launched in November. The campaign aims to help people spot the symptoms of depression in men and to encourage men who may be struggling to reach out for professional support from therapists.
Anthony answered a wide-ranging set of questions from the panel of MPs in Westminster on Tuesday 5 December.
He started by talking about our recent survey of more than 3,000 of our members which found that 52% of therapists reported an increase in men presenting with depression over the past year. The survey also found that 56% of therapists agreed that men are less likely to get mental health support than women.
Suffering in silence
Anthony said: “Men are suffering in silence.”
He added: “There’s quite a significant amount of stigma around seeking help due to traditional masculine norms, toxic masculinity and these ideologies have entrenched in men that they should be emotionless, stoic, and not talk to people about their problems, and actually talking about mental health is seen as somewhat weak.”
He also highlighted important intersectional differences that need to be considered when it comes to men’s mental health – including race.
He told the committee: “Racially minoritised men are significantly more likely to experience severe mental health illness than white men, and unfortunately due to issues such as systemic racism, cultural and societal expectations of masculinity, racially minoritised men are less likely to access mental health support, possibly due to a combination in mistrust in services and fear of discriminatory treatment once they do access those services.”
He explained how men may find it difficult to speak to strangers, can be more likely to externalise symptoms around mental health through violence and aggression and how it can be challenging for men to form attachments.
Anthony also explained about the aim of the R.A.I.S.E. campaign’s apronym, which stands for risk-taking, anger, isolation, substance abuse and exhaustion.
He told about how the R.A.I.S.E. booklet, which he contributed to along with other members, aims to help identify symptoms of depression in men, explore them and show the benefits of reaching out for professional support from therapists.
He said: “It is quite a difficult picture and we’re hoping that through this campaign we can shed some light on managing some of these difficult symptoms of depression.”
Anthony Davis at the Health and Social Care Select Committee
The committee were particularly interested in what can be done to help men access mental health services and to help reduce suicide rates.
Anthony spoke about the importance of counselling in schools, universities and through workplaces, via employees assistance programmes.
He explained about the postcode lottery that people experience when accessing mental health services on the NHS and the different tiers of services and types of therapy offered.
And he spoke about the need for NHS talking therapies to be properly funded so they can provide a range of services to people with different needs.
He also highlighted the critical role of third sector services, especially those that specialise in working with men or with those who experience suicidal ideation.
He told the committee that there needed to be “more funding given to those organisations to provide vital services to reach out to the underreached men who are not able to access services, who are finding it difficult to discuss their mental health."
He added: “Quite a lot of organisations are trying to reach those underrepresented groups but they don’t actually have the funding to provide those services.”
Some of Anthony’s comments about men’s mental health, our campaign, and therapy, were also broadcast on LBC Radio and referenced in The Sun.
Investment in therapy
After the committee session, Martin Bell, our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “I’d like to thank Anthony for representing BACP and our members at this important committee hearing.
“He spoke powerfully about mental health challenges facing men, and what is needed to reduce stigma, offer support and increase access to therapy. His eloquent observations blended his own extensive experience and insight as a therapist and our own organisational calls for investment in therapy.
"This was a fantastic opportunity to highlight to this influential group of MPs about the need to invest in therapy in a range of settings to ensure men can access the support they need and to provide a platform for our R.A.I.S.E campaign.”
Mental health disparities
Following the session, Anthony said: "Representing BACP at the committee session was truly an honour.
"I was fortunate to have an opportunity to engage in discussions with MPs around the mental health disparities among men, advantageous inclusive and intersectional interventions to implement, and policies to consider to better men’s mental health.
"Importantly, I highlighted the R.A.I.S.E. campaign which is a valuable resource providing information on the most common symptoms of depression among men and how to manage these symptoms effectively. I hope these discussions continue!”
R.A.I.S.E. Spotting signs of depression in men
BACP therapists highlight the symptoms of depression in men and explain how therapy can help. Download our booklet or read our online guide.
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