November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, dedicated to bringing awareness to a wide range of men’s health issues. As we focus on men this month, we can’t ignore that men tend to be more reluctant to seek help or treatment for their mental health struggles (Chatmon, 2020). On this occasion, we have invited Greg Purcell, Film Director and Photographer, and Ruadhán Ó Críodáin, Executive Director at ShoutOut, for a special episode of our CBTalks podcast. Joining Dr. Dan Duffy, Senior Digital Health Scientist at Amwell, they delve into the effects of societal stigmas on men's mental health, the healthcare system's role, and empowering men and minority groups to seek mental health support. Don't miss this insightful discussion on men's mental well-being and their experiences in our society.
In comparison to women, men are almost half as likely to report seeking professional help for their mental health concerns (Oliver et al., 2005). Correspondingly, men consisted of approximately a third of the referrals to mental health services in the National Health System in England in 2019-2020. The lower rate of treatment use is particularly concerning considering that across the world men are almost twice as likely to die by suicide than women. This is exemplified by the public suicide of a man on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. this month, citing a lifelong struggle with depression and personal and career difficulties. It is clear that the mental health field is not doing enough to support men’s mental health and there is a need to devote more efforts to preventing such deadly consequences.
Masculinity as a barrier to mental health
Why do men avoid seeking help for mental health concerns? While a range of factors contribute, one of the most dominant factors is the concept of masculinity and how some definitions of masculinity conflict with seeking help for mental struggles. Seeking help often means having to rely on others, admit there is a problem, and express emotions, but these behaviors can conflict with societal messages about masculinity, such as “men are self-reliant and tough” and “men don’t express emotions” (Cole & Ingram, 2011).
The conflict between masculinity and seeking treatment was highlighted in a study on men’s attitudes to mental health (Ellis et al., 2013). When asked about seeking help, participants consistently stated that seeking help conflicted with cultural notions of what it means to be a man. For instance, one participant stated, “...[Talking about your problems] is not a thing that’s really accepted. Guys don’t want to feel like they’re all girly.”
In light of these barriers, how can the mental health field provide treatment options that fit the needs of men? One option is online mental health treatment. In the same study on men’s attitudes to mental health, men expressed a strong willingness to use the internet to find mental health support (Ellis et al., 2013). To quote one participant, “I’d prefer to talk to someone on the Internet and then maybe make my way to a counsellor or a psychiatrist…”. A similar study found that men preferred treatment options in which they had control in the direction of their treatment and in which they learned specific skills and tools they could practice and use to solve problems (Seidler et al., 2018).
Seeking help via the internet can provide anonymity and feelings of self-directed help that don’t clash with someone’s sense of masculinity. Types of therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), may be particularly suitable for men since CBT focuses on current problems and provides specific tools and techniques that can be used to solve them. Of the multiple mental health treatment options available, the SilverCloud® platform is an evidence-based online CBT solution that is proven to be effective for men’s mental health.
SilverCloud® Programmes for men
The SilverCloud®platform empowers users to better manage their mental health through interactive tools and clinically proven programs in a confidential, judgment-free space. Our digital health and wellbeing programs offer an easily accessible online option for mental healthcare that preserves anonymity while also offering a self-guided and coached option. Each program includes a suite of online modules designed for a user’s particular mental health concern, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and more. Users work through the modules at their own pace and time and can also be assigned an online coach who provides weekly feedback, additional encouragement, and guidance for getting the most out of the program content. Throughout the modules, users learn specific techniques from the CBT toolkit to solve problems and improve mental health. One such tool is the Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors cycle, or TFB Cycle, which is a technique in which the client tracks how specific thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are cyclically connected, and through this understanding begin to learn how to influence and change unwanted cycles.
SilverCloud® is proven effective for men too. Overall, when looking at naturalistic patterns of who is referred to use SilverCloud®, almost twice as many women are referred than men (65.7% women vs. 34.3% men). This reflects the cultural norm that men are reluctant to seek treatment for their mental health concerns. However, when looking at our leading programs for depression and anxiety, rates of improvement in symptoms and of recovery from symptoms are equal for men and women.
For instance, after using our Space from Anxiety program, 38% of women and 42% of men experienced recovery from their symptoms in eight weeks.
Thus, while women are more likely to be referred to use SilverCloud®, men benefit from the treatment just as much as women. This highlights the need to spread the word about SilverCloud® to men given the effectiveness of its programs and its ability to provide treatment in a format that supports their needs.
Given the societal pressures, cultural norms, and beliefs that make men reluctant to seek treatment and address their mental health concerns, there is a critical need to provide mental health treatment options that are appealing to men. By providing a much greater degree of anonymity, self-directedness, autonomy in emotional disclosure, and practical tools, online mental health programs such as SilverCloud programmes are promising treatment options for men. Providing better treatment options and engaging men in seeking out these treatments is not only beneficial to improving the lives of the many men secretly struggling with mental health but is necessary to prevent the devastating and deadly consequences of ignoring mental health problems.
If you or someone you love is in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK at 0800-689-5652.
Chatmon, B. N. (2020). Males and mental health stigma. American Journal of Men’s Health 14:1557988320949322
Cole, B. P., & Ingram, P. B. (2020). Where do I turn for help? Gender role conflict, self-stigma, and college men’s help-seeking for depression. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 21, 441-452.
Ellis, L. A., Collin, P., Hurley, P. J., Davenport, T. A., Burns, J. M., & Hickie, I. B. (2013). Young men’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to mental health and technology: Implications for the development of online mental health services. BMC psychiatry, 13, 1-10.
Oliver, M. I., Pearson, N., Coe, N., & Gunnell, D. (2005). Help-seeking behaviour in men and women with common mental health problems: cross-sectional study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(4), 297-301.
Seidler, Z. E., Rice, S. M., Oliffe, J. L., Fogarty, A. S., & Dhillon, H. M. (2018). Men in and out of treatment for depression: Strategies for improved engagement. Australian Psychologist, 53, 405-415.