CoronavirusCulture

Male mental health hit hard by COVID-19

In the last three weeks, a charity has said that more than half a million people accessed training to prevent suicide.

The Zero Suicide Alliance, founded in 2017 a group of NHS trusts, charities, businesses and individuals, found that during the COVID 19 lockdown, 503,000 people had completed its online course to spot signs that a person needs help.

Zero Suicide Alliance - Resources
Zero Suicide Alliance Campaign picture // Source: zerosuicidealliance.com

COVID-19 has heightened current mental health issues, as future uncertainty combines with the very real and evident threat of death. Families have lost loved ones, and many are still fighting for their lives. The country is facing recession with jobs being lost and people unsure of their next step, causing many individuals to become vulnerable to mental health issues.

The Martin Gallier Project, a helpline for those who are suffering from mental health issues, has seen calls to their helpline go up 300% since lockdown began. The NHS and other services will face numbers they will again be unable to cope with.

Men as “hidden victims”?

Men aged 18-25 are reported to have been badly affected by first-time mental health issues. According to a study, by Dr Liat Levita, surveyed 2,000 13-24-year-olds in the UK, examining Covid19’s effect on young people.

The research found half of the young men aged 19-24 had breached lockdown rules to meet friends, meaning men are less compliant than other young people, as they feel the worst affected by restrictions on their movement, and are less likely to listen to the rules, putting them at further risk.

Additionally, middle-aged men from poorer backgrounds according to Samaritans charity have been identified as potential “hidden victims” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Samaritans: here for the farming community - YellowWellies.org
Small talk saves lives slogan // Source: Samaritans

Feedback from 1,920 volunteers was analysed who have worked for its helpline throughout the lockdown and found middle aged men are most at risk of suicide and the least likely to seek help.

In 2018, 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, three-quarters of them were men.

New Ministry of Justice figures confirmed that men were significantly more likely than women to kill themselves: males accounted for 77% of suicide verdicts, which has risen by 11% since 2018.

A suicide is equivalent to a rock thrown into the water, the ripples cover friends, family, and loved ones.

Jobs lost will affect men physically and mentally

Today it was confirmed Rolls-Royce confirmed they will cut 9,000 jobs, due to the dramatic reduction in the air travel business. CEO Warren East would not confirm how many UK jobs will be lost. It has been estimated through Research by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex 6.5 million jobs possibly could be lost due to the economic fallout from the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, This massive figure equates to about a quarter of the UK’s total jobs.

Job Loss and Unemployment Stress - HelpGuide.org
Distress from job losses will have a lasting effect on men // Source: helpguide.org

Accommodation and food services are predicted to be worst affected, as 75 % of jobs – about 1.3 million positions – lost, while some sectors referred to as “other services” are predicted to lose 50%.

As an example “wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles” is expected to lose 47.6% of jobs. Men often work in jobs that pose threats to their physical health and safety, characterised by low pay and insecurity, posing physical and mental health challenges. COVID-19 has turned the economy upside down. With work rendered central to male masculinity, current circumstances will have significant implications for men’s mental health.

How will it be challenged?

Covid19 should change how mental health is addressed. Samaritans with the University of Glasgow have launched a study to map the impact of COVID 19 on suicidal thoughts, cases of self-harm and mental health. This is just one of many ongoing studies into mental health impacts of the pandemic and lockdown.

Whilst there is a furlough scheme extended until October, the future continues to be unresolved. Jobs lost will affect men, who’s worth is placed in being traditional providers for their families and may find a lot of instrumental, emotional and practical support from their work-based support networks and friendships.

We are not entering into an oppression Olympics. However men’s issues need to be looked at in greater depth, with a clear plan to help them during this COVID-19 epidemic. It’s already widely known the disease itself hits men harder. In the six countries that report sex-specific records of death from Covid-19, male mortality rates were higher than female. While we can’t put full trust in the figures, it certainly points to a quite obvious trend.

There are complex behavioural and biological reasons for this, but also social and cultural norms that are also contributing towards the numbers needing mental health support. Men are less likely to reach out for both mental and physical health support and services. Stereotypes of men not needing outside help and being always strong and independent without emotion, the now infamous ‘toxic masculinity’ idea still can prevail. Some men still suffer in silence in fear of judgement, causing some men to act out in a self-sabotaging manner to their own detriment.

Charities and organisations coming out with these sex-specific numbers could be helpful; only then will we generate more individualised responses based on what people actually say. However, with the system already chronically underfunded, campaigns telling men to “speak out” and “share their emotions” are going entirely unrewarded. Men may go to individual charities, but may not be linked into responses and support that works and information may not be centralised to activate better responses.

In such turbulent times, men must find solace in our masculinity which is being reinvented daily. Perhaps to re-focus on male assets and strengths and the experience of masculinity, and accurate data on how that looks in 2020, will be the gateway to better services and wellbeing for men.

Shaun Flores
Shaun Flores is from Trinidad & Tobago, the home of carnival In 2018 he became a TEDx speaker speaking on the failures of multiculturalism. He is also a commercial & fashion model. MA in Race Media and Social Justice BA in Criminology & Sociology He hopes to study a PhD 'The absence of paternal masculinity in the black home'.

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