This is the first of a series of posts from an essay I wrote during my Yoga Teacher Training, titled Yoga as an Antidote to Modern Life for Men. Examining men’s mental health, stress and modern life, how Yoga can help and how to engage more men in the practice.
Men’s Mental Health
The following statistics provide a stark picture of the current state of men’s mental health issues:
- Three out of four suicides in 2018 (4,903 deaths) were by men. (Reference ONS)
- In 2016 a study reported by mentalhealth.org.uk found that nearly half (43.4%) of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life (35.2% of men and 51.2% of women). A fifth of men (19.5%) and a third of women (33.7%) have had diagnoses confirmed by professionals. (Reference mentalhealth.org.uk)
- Between 2017 and 2020, an average of 305,000 men a year reported stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work. (Reference hse.gov.uk)
- Men are nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use. (Reference mentalhealth.org.uk)
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. In the year 2018 – 2019, only 35.4% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men. (Reference: digital.nhs.uk)
- In 2021, men make up 96% of the prison population (Reference: gov.uk).
- Men have measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community. (References: R. Boreham and D. Pevalin)
Taking these statistics into account, it is clear that the pressures of modern life for a significant proportion of men are becoming too much. It is also clear that many are unable or unwilling to seek help.
Consequently, men who are reluctant to seek help go on to suffer in silence. It leads to a sense that they must not appear weak. This leads to feelings of isolation, and an inability to talk or share about how their issues. This is an attitude that needs to change. What they must realise is that many other men are suffering in silence in the same way. It is OK to not feel OK. It is OK to admit that you are not OK and it is OK to seek help. In fact, seeking help is imperative.
Speaking from experience, I became chronically stressed when a combination of rapid life, career and family changes happened all at the same time. This took place over a sustained period which led to substance use (cannabis). This then led to misuse.
This was followed by anxiety in social settings, where I frequently (and embarrassingly) broke out into uncontrollable perspiration. I exercised less, stopped eating as healthily, lost weight and my sleep was poor. As a result, my health and ability to function socially became impaired.
This led to a chronic loop of anxiety, anger, aggression and depression. I became prone to patterns of angry reactions to situations which with a calmer head, could have been dealt with much more effectively.
As a consequence, this led to my overall physical and mental health and well-being suffering greatly.
When I’ve not felt OK, I have been very fortunate to be able to seek help and express how I am feeling. I sought healing and insight through a variety of ‘alternative’ modalities. Seeking ways in which I can improve my mental resilience. This is how my Yoga practice evolved.
Yoga equips me with the tools to self-regulate my emotions and my response to stress. As a result of this, I am calmer and clearer and possess a greater sense of physical and mental well-being. It helps me to respond to rather than react to stressful situations.
My goal as a teacher is to connect with men through Yoga practice, to equip them with the tools to deal with the pressures of modern life in a much more positive way. To ultimately become calmer, clearer and more aligned in themselves.
If you are reading this and you’re interested in Yoga and how it could or does help you, drop a comment below or reach out to me via email.