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International Men’s Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the mental health issues that can affect men differently and disproportionately and empower them to start a conversation about their mental health.

Here we take a look at the research on men’s mental health, explore the issues they are texting our Shout 85258 service for support with, and profile some of the organisations we are working with to help men start an important conversation about their mental health when they are ready.

Men’s mental health in the UK

1 in 8 men in England have a common mental health problem, compared to 1 in 5 women. While fewer men than women in the UK are reported to experience mental health problems, research shows that mental health challenges can affect men differently and disproportionately to women, and that the intersection between mental health and other factors, such as race and socio-economic status, can often compound the issues affecting men and boys:

Accessing mental health support

Despite the prevalence of mental health challenges amongst men in the UK, many men are unlikely to seek support or speak to others about their experiences or emotions. For example, men are less likely to access NHS psychological therapies than women, accounting for only 32% of referrals. Meanwhile, men are also four times less likely to text Shout 85258 for support with their mental health than women (17% vs 77%).

Societal expectations and stereotyped gender roles can play a role here. Men can be ‘expected’ to be strong, dominant and in control, which can make it harder to reach out for help and open up.

Some research also suggests that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves, and therefore are less likely to reach out for support. In fact, 44% of men who have texted Shout for support have never asked for help elsewhere and only 18% have been to see a therapist or doctor about their concerns.

Men’s use of Shout 85258 in 2021

So far in 2021, our trained Shout Volunteers have taken around 62,800 conversations with texters who identify as male and who are struggling to cope.

Depression (35%), suicide (34%) and anxiety or stress (33%) are the most common issues that have arisen in conversations with boys and men in 2021, followed by relationships (26%), loneliness (17%) and self-harm (9%).

Compared to female texters, male texters are less likely to mention self-harm (9% vs 16%) and eating or body image issues (2% vs 5%).

How we are helping men to start a conversation about their mental health

According to the Mental Health Foundation, there is research to suggest that men will access help when they feel it meets their preferences and is easily accessed, meaningful and engaging.

The nature of Shout 85258 as a text messaging service appeals to boys and men. Not only is it a silent way to communicate, alleviating some of the pressure men can feel around talking about their worries out loud, but it is also free, confidential and anonymous and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Half (49%) of boys and men who text Shout say they have no one else to talk to. We work in partnership with a diverse range of organisations who reach male audiences to signpost to Shout and to help them start a conversation about their mental health - whether that’s with us, a friend, a family member, a colleague or a health professional.

We partner with men’s personal care brand Harry’s on two initiatives to improve men’s access to mental health resources. We developed the Let It Out campaign to help young Black boys and men access the support they need, when they need it. We also provide a bespoke service for Harry’s that enables any man in the UK to access immediate, free and confidential mental health support by texting the keyword ‘MATE’ to 85258.

Our keyword partnerships also extend to a range of organisations who support largely male audiences. Through our partnership with The Burnt Chef Project, hospitality professionals can access help when they’re struggling to cope by texting ‘BURNTCHEF’ to 85258, while partnerships with football clubs Newcastle United Foundation (‘BAGC’) and Cambridge United (‘SHOUT’) enable supporters to access free mental health support any time of the day or night.

To mark International Men’s Day, we are also teaming up with Yogeez and The Urban Journal to launch a film titled ‘No Man’s An Island’. The film, which sees 10 men having an honest conversation about their fears, feelings and coping strategies, aims to raise awareness about the importance of men opening up and being vulnerable with each other. You can watch it here.

If you are struggling to cope this International Men’s Day - or any day of the week - text ‘MATE’ to 85258 for free, confidential mental health support 24/7.

You can also find support, advice and resources for a range of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, suicide and sleep, here.

"Thank you for your calmness and understanding. You have given me plenty to work on and think about in order to approach the issues I am facing."

Feedback from male texter using the 'MATE' keyword

“Thanks for taking the time to be here and to understand what I was going through, I felt like you were on my [side] rooting for me and that meant a lot when I was feeling quite lost.”

Texter feedback using the 'BURNTCHEF' keyword