Is it time for a mental health MOT? This June as we focus on men’s health around the globe during International Men’s Health Week, June 13-19th, we encourage all men to pause and take a quick inventory of themselves – both body and mind. Listen in as Dr. Jorge Palacios, Senior Digital Health Scientist for SilverCloud Health chats with Daryl and Cormac Noonan of The Wolf Academy, about the challenges surrounding men’s mental health and what can be done to help address these issues while tackling societal stigmas.
More people are beginning to address the implications surrounding mental illness in modern society, but there continues to be a massive stigma around men’s mental health in particular. While depression is a disease that impacts both men and women, there are far more women who report struggling with mental health challenges than men. That said, suicide is the leading cause of death amongst men 50 and under. This then probes the question of how many men struggle with mental health challenges but don’t seek treatment?
Culturally, society has developed a stigma, particularly amongst males, that mental illness is a trait of the weak-minded. Although depression is linked to chemical changes in the brain and thus physical changes in the body, it is still very challenging to break these skewed and deep-rooted beliefs. That said, mental health plays an extremely vital role in our body’s overall wellness, which is why seeking professional help is extremely important.
The Wolf Academy focuses on helping young people to lead happy and fulfilling lives by working through mental health barriers and judgement they may face in society. The brothers discuss the importance of pushing yourself to be open and allow yourself to feel and express your emotions. This can be especially hard for men, who are conditioned by society to say they feel “fine,” that “only girls cry,” as well as other harmful narratives.
In the UK, approximately a quarter of the population will experience a type of mental health concern every year. For men, many of those concerns remain silent and untreated, with only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) being men. Mental illness in men is a concern regardless of life experience or background. Cormac and Daryl had what some would consider dissimilar life experiences that brought them to a similar space mentally: feeling a lack within themselves.
As the Noonan brothers began to dig into this feeling, they realised that it is something most men experience; even if they are ticking all of the boxes of societal expectations, they run up against a barrier in seeking worthiness. Unfortunately, men generally report significantly lower life satisfaction than women, but the number of men who seek help is also much lower than women. This disparity is alarming - those who actually need help are not able to receive it.
A huge contributor to the silence of men suffering from mental health issues is societal stigma. Men are supposed to “be tough,” leaving no room for appropriate expression of emotions, which can lead to negative outlets such as heightened feelings of anger. The Noonans emphasise the importance of restructuring expectations in society to create a space to tap into emotions without stigma. Their methodology encourages taking small steps that don’t necessarily lead to time in a health centre or taking medications but simply following a lifestyle that inspires emotional openness.
The brothers both testify to greater emotional intelligence and satisfaction in life after following their guidelines. While mental health for men may be more stigmatised, men do just as well as women with recovery. In Noonans' words, you have to “feel it to heal it.” They hope to continue fighting the harmful narratives in society surrounding mental health in men and to inspire other men to take steps toward recovery.
Listen to SilverCloud Health’s full podcast to hear the Wolf Brothers’ insights into stigmas around men’s mental health and how we can restructure expectations from harmful to healthy practices.
SilverCloud’s suite of family programs covers every member of the family from early parenthood to adulthood – and every stage in between. While men are often not diagnosed with perinatal depression, we know that becoming a new parent is stressful for everyone – that’s why our Space for Early Parenting was designed for any parent experiencing, or who could be at risk for experiencing, subthreshold symptoms of depression and/or anxiety during the perinatal period.