Men are being negatively affected by the isolation and social restrictions that are part and parcel of the global response to coronavirus, says mental health charity Samaritans.
A new poll of 2,000 men aged 18 to 59 found that 42% of UK men said their mental health had been negatively affected by life in lockdown, with the charity pointing to the lack of social connection as a contributing factor.
But before you rush to think ending lockdown is the answer, it’s worth noting that more than half of the men surveyed (56%) also said they are feeling worried or anxious as restrictions ease and the world goes back to ‘normal’.
The pandemic has had a lasting impact on our mental wellbeing, and that won’t be easily fixed by just letting everyone race back to the pub.
What could help, though, is encouraging men to reach out for support when they need it – 40% of the men surveyed said that talking with others had helped them cope with concerns, worries, and low mood in lockdown.
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Paul McDonald, executive director of external affairs at Samaritans, said: ‘This pandemic has brought unexpected change and uncertainty, which will have a lasting impact on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.
‘At Samaritans we know that less well off, middle-aged men have remained the highest risk group for suicide in the UK for decades and that the restrictions put in place during lockdown such as isolation and disconnection will have exacerbated problems for these men.
‘We understand the value of listening and the power of human connection, particularly at this time when so many people are dealing with overwhelming thoughts and feelings.
‘We know that sharing stories of recovery does encourage men to seek help, so we hope that our Real People, Real Stories campaign can help other men to see that they can do it too and know that Samaritans is always there when they want to talk.’
This report comes after a study back in July found that single men had been ‘hit hardest’ by loneliness and mental health issues in lockdown.
Other research has pointed to the pandemic having a ‘devastating impact’ on the nation’s mental health, regardless of gender, while experts say we could see a rise in mental health issues such as agoraphobia as lockdown eases.
Greater support and consideration of the mental health issues that may have festered in lockdown will be needed as we come out of the pandemic.
But in the meantime, we know that talking about what we’re going through makes a huge difference.
One of the supporters of the Real People, Real Stories campaign from Samaritans is Martin, 52, who found himself struggling when he was in his early 30s after experiencing difficulties at work and getting into financial trouble.
He was introduced to a walking group for football supporters where he was able to talk about his experience, which had a significant impact on his mental wellbeing.
Martin said: ‘After meeting a Samaritans volunteer at a walk and talk, I felt so relieved to have spoken to someone about my mental health, particularly as they had also experienced difficulties.
‘It was a chat between two men with football in common, which led to talking about everyday things before drifting to mental health issues.
‘Speaking to others on the walk who had been through tough times was really helpful, as they had some understanding of where you have been mentally.’
Need support? Contact the Samaritans
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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