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Men's health group debates men's mental health

Men’s mental well-being problems are often over-looked and thought to be under-diagnosed. Men make up 76% of people who take their own lives and are more than twice as likely to suffer from an alcohol disorder. It is estimated that 90% of prisoners have a mental health problem of some kind.

This meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Men’s Health heard from experts in men’s health, mental health and in the ethnic minority mental health. Their presentations were based on three reports: the National Mental Health Development Unit’s Untold Problems, Mind and the Men’s Health Forum’s Delivering Male and the Men’s Health Forum’s Improving the Mental Health of BME men. The last of these was launched at this meeting.

Chair of the group, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE introduced the subject and the speakers.

David Wilkins from the Men’s Health Forum was an author of both Untold Problems and Delivering Male, he presented with Colin Walker of Mind on these reports.

Dr Frank Keating from Royal Holloway University of London was one of the authors of Improving the Mental Health of BME men. He briefed the group members and visitors on his work.

Summary of the presentations and discussion

Male mental health problems are significantly under-diagnosed. That inevitably leads to poorer provision, on the assumption that men’s need for support is lower. Men also have measurably lower levels of support from friends and relatives than women.

Men who are diagnosed with mental health problems may experience particular forms of predjudice – most notably the assumption that they must be potentially violent.

It is important to recognise that we need services that see people as individuals. There should be no “competition” between men and women. Gender-equitable services will benefit both sexes.

There was a strong feeling that men can be encouraged to use services – provided that services are constructed with men in mind.

There is scope for services that are delivered outside clinical networks and/or which make use of “third parties” (e.g. family, friendship groups, social organisations, youth and education services) to encourage and normalise male help-seeking.

Change will not be immediate but we should not lose sight of the progress that has already been made. It is crucial to take the long view and to encourage action on as many fronts as possible.

Political lobbying is important, as is spending time and effort in ensuring that GP consortia and Health and Well-being Boards develop a proper understanding of the issue.

Training is crucial but must be predicated on the idea that we need to acknowledge gender, whether male or female, and race as key elements in understanding the mental health needs of individuals.

The professional bodies must be encouraged and supported to develop expertise in male mental health.

Finally, we should lose no opportunity to remind policy-makers that there is a statutory duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that services aim to deliver equality of access and outcome between the sexes.

Presentations available:

Page created on April 8th, 2011

Page updated on April 8th, 2011