The Stereotypes Fuelling Men’s Mental Health Stigma during Lockdown

Man sitting on a rock overlooking a colourful sunset

A mixture of pandemic pressures and toxic stereotyping in the media are taking a heavy toll on the mental health of men under 35 reveals recent research by CALM. The survey of 2,000 people in the UK has highlighted the mental pressures faced by young men created by toxic stereotyping in the media as well as the ongoing pandemic. The stereotypes men aged 18-34 found most offensive were those around being a ‘player’, while 79% thought similarly about being seen as ‘sex-obsessed’. Men of colour also face specific stereotypes about being angry, lazy and rude, say CALM.

Freelance Writer, Matt who lives with depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and anxiety has found some old-fashioned stereotypes to affect his mental health, particularly during the lockdown. He comments, ‘There is a belief that men “just get on with it” and power through struggles – put financial stability before health, opportunity and career advance before wellness. I’ve had that drummed in from an early age that my job is to earn money and not pursue happiness or satisfaction.’

Despite needing to take a day off (a need for everybody in order to rest and recuperate), Matt finds it hard to fight and break the mindset that has been drilled into him for so long. Matt says, ‘It’s taken its toll and I’ve felt physically, mentally, and emotionally drained often for days at a time. I feel guilty about taking a day off, even when I have no work to do, I feel I have to be doing something for my business. Even though me and my partner are comfortable, we both work and are child free, this mindset is hard to break.’ Matt has felt the ‘toxic gendered expectation’ placed upon men, he comments, ‘There is a belief that men “just get on with it” and power through struggles – put financial stability before health, opportunity and career advance before wellness. I’ve had that drummed in from an early age that my job is to earn money and not pursue happiness or satisfaction.’

Founder of Arthur Ellis, Jon Manning works with businesses to raise awareness on how to improve the wellbeing of their employee’s. With men currently making up most of the STEM fields, says Jon, it highlights the nature of their typically isolated work such as anti-social working hours. Jon says, ‘This can bring wonderful benefits but also brings a risk of isolation which can then have a further domino effect to our mental health.’

The current lockdown that the UK is facing means, ‘we need to find the right balance of how much we communicate, different people will find the number of zoom calls and video meetings exhausting, others will thrive’, says Jon. ‘We are all at risk of that isolation creeping in but consistency with communication is absolutely key and recognising that isolation is something we sometimes fall into is the first step in getting the necessary measures in place for us to find that balance and manage our wellbeing effectively’.

Behind the face of the mental health company is somebody who has battled mental health struggles and lives with Bipolar Disorder. And with that come additional pressures. Jon comments, ‘There is a lot of pressure to practice what I preach and manage my condition so the outside world doesn’t see that I struggle. The reality is, bipolar doesn’t get cured and I do get unwell.’ The first lockdown was challenging for Jon, with his routine used to manage his mental health completely interrupted: ‘I needed to find new ways to exercise, manage my hygiene with hair dressers closed and living alone, I fell into the trap of “I’m not seeing anyone so there’s no point in showering”. The sooner Zoom adds a smell feature the better!’

It’s normal for a disruption in routine to throw us off-guard says Jon, ‘We all need that accountability that normal life brings and that can slip if it’s disrupted. We all slip and the ups and downs are okay, it’s life after all.’

How to make it through those challenging times is what matters. Jon adds, ‘The power comes from knowing what we need to do in those moments. To drive positivity back rather than descending further into unhelpful ruts. Knowing what your unhelpful behaviours are, being honest with ourselves and finding positive alternatives is a good first step, one we may be able to do on our own. The second step is asking those around us to help us build those positive behaviours into our lives. That’s real support and that’s when we begin to gain control back’

For more information please take a look at men’s mental health services below:

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.

Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

Website: www.thecalmzone.net

Men’s Health Forum provide 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk

Samaritans provide confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

Posted by

Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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