Today I want to talk more about men’s mental health. Men are often portrayed as strong and “manly”, a gender that is stoic, not known to show emotions. Some men may think that talking about mental health may be seen as a sign of weakness. Therefore, mental health for men is a topic that may be brought up occasionally, but was as quickly dismissed.
However, this becomes a problem. According to the Samaritians of Singapore (SOS), men account for 70% of all suicide (Suicide Facts and Figures | Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)). Worldwide, the suicide rate for men is more than twice of that of women, but studies conducted in both Singapore and worldwide shows that depression rate is found to be lower in men compared to women.
As I was reading this article, S’pore women more likely to suffer from depression than men: IMH study – TODAY (todayonline.com), I wondered about some of the things that they said. They say that men have higher stress tolerance and it takes more for men to snap. However, with the high suicide rates, I wonder whether it is that men might have been bottling up their problems instead. Once that reaches a tipping point, it might be too much to handle emotionally and men may not know how to cope with it in a healthy way.
From my experiences on how males handle their problems in life (e.g. Being stressed at work, sexual problems and performance anxiety), their solutions were, mostly to sweep it under the rug, try to problem solve it logically, or drown their sorrows in alcohol or food. Unfortunately, not only does it not solve the problem, it just creates more problems as well. The misuse of alcohol and drugs have dangerous repercussions, resulting in risk taking behaviours, poor impulse control, and increased anger and irritability. It doesn’t help that these behaviours are seen to be more “manly” or more “masculine” by society. Let’s talk a little bit more about some causes of mental health problems in men.
Why do men need counselling in Singapore?
Stress at Work
During COVID19, there have been many people who lost their jobs. For many people, their jobs are their sense of identity, their sense of pride, their sense of worth. Traditionally, men were also thought to be the default breadwinner for the family. Losing a job or taking a pay cut unconsciously generated a new worry – not being able to provide for their family, losing the income, status and possibly high corporate positions they previously may had respect in.
On top of that, many men work in industries that are brutal. My mother works in construction and she tells me that in construction, everyone yells at everyone, everyone is “chor lor” (rough) and speaks in crude languages or in a crude manner. That’s just how the industry’s culture is. It’s a very result and outcome driven industry – if you don’t perform, you get whipped (verbally). Industries like construction are also dangerous, the risk of injury is high, and the concern of getting a permanent injury always weighs down on their workers., This, again results in a higher risk of depression, as there are worries on injuries and getting put out of the workforce. That’s just one of the many “tough” industries. Offshore, Oil and Gas, Chemical industries also often require workers to work long hours, and long periods of time away from family. The feeling of being away from your loved ones, your emotional support and feeling of isolation do not contribute to a good mental health.
In Singapore, the work culture expects employees to OT, work around the clock and to devote our lives (too much) to the organization. That’s a norm in many industries. That again leaves people without a social life, high stress levels and high levels of unhappiness.
Divorce and relationship breakdown
An issue that might cause relationship distress is the lack of empathy in many men. Men tend to want to fix things, to solve problems but do not validate emotions as much. They believe that things should be solved logically and once solved, to put things behind them. Unfortunately, the lack of emotion check-ins might cause friction between both parties.
Divorce brings about a loss of social and emotional support and a likelihood of losing your children (if any). For many people, their partners become their biggest pillar of social and emotional support once they get married. In Singapore, it also appears that more people tend not to keep in touch with their friends after marriage. Think about your friends who got married and have kids, or even just your friends who got married, do they tend to stop hanging out? Do you still keep in touch with them? Many men (friends/clients) that I’ve spoken to shared that they stopped hanging out and doing things that they enjoy after they had a kid. Their lives revolve around their work and family.
If you are a guy reading this, imagine removing your wife and children from your life now, where would you be, what would you be doing, how would you live your life?
Adverse childhood experience
Men, just like women, can experience abuse in childhood. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Abused men are less likely to receive help as compared to women because the behaviours exhibited by them tend to be considered “character issues” rather than mental health issues. Some of which include, disruptive behaviours, dropping out of school, binge drinking, risk taking, and delinquency. People tend to see these problems as social problems and not recognise that these might be a sign that they need help.
How can counselling help men in Singapore?
Men might not be open or used to talking about their problems and it might be challenging for mental health professionals to detect problems initially. It is common for men to come to therapy expecting a solution to fix their problem immediately. This is something that I have experienced often. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for that. What really helps is for men to stick to the therapy sessions religiously and with an open mindset. Help can start when one acknowledges and accepts that there is a problem that needs intervention. With regular counselling sessions and sharing, many are able to learn healthy coping skills, to end the sessions feeling better, and go on to build healthier relationships with themselves and others.
A kind place wants to promote men’s mental health. With that, we have started a partnership with Sire (https://thesire.sg) a men’s telehealth clinic. Sire provides telemedicine for men who have difficulties with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and hair loss. We believe that the best way to overcome these problems is a blend of both medication and counselling. The mixture of both will lead to better outcomes and allow you to live a more fulfilling and value-driven life.
If you or if you know someone who might be facing some form of distress, anxiety or in need of mental health assistance, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or drop us a message on WhatsApp.