The past 18 months have signified a time when most of us have had to reorient our lives to a great extent. I’ve spoken to so many people who've said that their stress levels have increased during this pandemic and the majority added that they felt isolated, even if they were in a loving relationship. For a variety of reasons, partly due to social conditioning and expectations, a lot of men have found it difficult to express how they’ve felt. They particularly recognised the pressures on their partners due to working from home, schooling children and possibly a greatly reduced income.
These difficulties have affected men too and it’s important to recognise this as we work towards a new normality in our lives. A lot of men still think of themselves as what is known as the primary bread-winner and even though we may not agree with this term, to a lot of men it’s very real. In this climate of uncertainty, men express the fear that if their own health suffers they won’t be in a position to fulfil that role any longer.
There's also the difficulty of adjusting to different roles within the home environment whilst also keeping up with online working – this has often proved problematic for everyone during the pandemic, particularly if space or internet access are limited. The reduction of income for many households and lack of financial stability have played a big part in increasing levels of stress.
An added issue is that for many men, their self-esteem is connected to a sense of purpose often partly reliant on their employment. No longer meeting up face-to-face with colleagues has contributed to their loneliness, but men often feel unable to express this. The good news is that younger men, in particular, are coming forward to discuss their feelings and to open up about how the pandemic has affected their mental health. More emphasis is now being put on talking and confiding in one another. For a lot of men, this is the first time this has been encouraged particularly in the media. That’s one of the positives to come out of this crisis – that it’s healthy to talk and that no-one is going to think any less of them for opening up about their feelings.
Whereas previously a lot of men found it emasculating to express their feelings, many now feel ready to share their experiences and the ways in which they’ve struggled. For that reason, I feel the future looks positive regarding men’s mental health. Allowing for further restrictions that COVID-19 might bring, men are being encouraged to talk more openly. As a counsellor and psychotherapist, I hope to be able to validate their emotions so that talking becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Men seeking therapy
Andy Garland talks about the importance of conversations about men's health. Men's Health Week 2021
Behind closed doors
Gavin Conn focuses on support for men who've been victims of domestic abuse. Mental Health Week 2021
Blogs and vlogs 2021
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.