The 22nd of June marks International Father’s Mental Health Week. For any of us, the first steps in seeking help for our mental health can be daunting. For men especially, there can be a reluctance to talk about their problems, having likely been told at various stages of their life to “man up” and deal with their issues silently. Traditionally, men have been reluctant users of mental health services, which several charities have started to address in recent years. Those of us with a long history on Facebook will remember how the unkempt moustaches of “Movember” first took over the faces of the men in our lives in November 2003 for Men’s Health Awareness Month. Initially, this annual event started in Australia and then went global, and its purpose was to raise awareness of men’s physical health issues. It has since expanded to highlight the issue of men’s mental health and has sparked a whole global movement to support men during the month of November for Men’s Mental Health month. But we shouldn’t just wait until November to focus on raising awareness.
A 2019 Report called Improving Mental Health Service Utilization Among Men in The American Journal of Men’s Health May-June 2019, highlighted that whilst many studies have focused on the reasons why men don’t engage with mental health services – for instance, socialisation based on traditional masculine gender roles such as stoicism, invulnerability, and being self-reliant – there is also evidence to show “that masculine qualities can be valued. For example, self-reliance and responsibility can be helpful when experiencing emotional difficulties”. Something we have noticed at Digital Bricks when we have provided mental health training in male dominated industries is how many of the men who are natural leaders speak with clarity and assertiveness about how they want to support their team, especially younger men who might need a bit of support without being made to look “weak”. Having positive role models amongst the older men makes a big difference.
Making information and support services more accessible to men is a smart method to help them connect with helpful resources, and digital technology is increasingly playing a role in assisting men in helping themselves. According to the mental health charity Mind, the good news is that men have become nearly three times as likely to see a therapist in recent years than they were a decade ago. One reason may be the use of apps on their phones provided by male-focused mental health charities. Father’s Day occurred this month in the UK and Father’s Network Scotland, which campaigns for the better inclusion of dads within perinatal mental health services, have created the “Dad AF” app that connects dads with mental health support.
Dan Proverbs, the founder of men’s mental health charity Brothers in Arms Scotland, has, with his charity, developed several apps that enable men to support their mental health. The BrothersThrive app was built by a doctor, a clinical psychologist, and a consultant psychiatrist using Thrive Therapeutic software. It works as a self-management technique for stress and anxiety. The men using it can choose to do so anonymously. It provides coping skills, allowing them to log how they are feeling daily, and asks them straightforward questions about their mental health in an engaging and easy to use way. It uses a unique range of therapeutic support modules, including relaxation techniques such as meditation, thought training, sleep improvement and goal progress tracking as well as being able to connect with a trained therapist if needed.
In the week of Father’s Day, Dan said: “As an example, a male user after sessions working with his coach felt empowered to approach his GP but was concerned that he would not be able to express everything when in front of him. The coach provided written copies of work they had done so far, one for himself and one for his GP and this enabled him to go ahead with the visit. Thrive who we partner with say that we have a 100% male demographic usage, unique in any of their other organisations where it tends to be a 30% male usage, and currently a 76% improvement rate among the 1400 men currently engaged in the service and there is no limit to how many times they use the programme, so basically it works. During this week, it would be great if all men, and especially dads in Scotland could use our service via our portal here”.
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Improving Mental Health Service Utilization Among Men: A Systematic Review and Synthesis
of Behavior Change Techniques Within Interventions Targeting Help-Seeking Ilyas
Sagar-Ouriaghli, MSc, BSc,1 Emma Godfrey, PhD,1,2 Livia Bridge, MSc, BA,1 Laura
Meade, MA, BRMCD,2 and June S.L. Brown, PhD, MPsychol(Clin), BSc1