“Women seek help — men die” (Jules Angst and Celile Ernst). This is a blunt way of summarising the statistic that suicide is the single biggest cause of death in men aged 20 to 45 (in the UK there are 3.5 male suicides for every 1 female suicide). To seek help, to share the burden, implies that we are admitting defeat, and that we do not have the strength. “We are less of a man.”
Instead of seeking help, the statistics suggest that men deal with distress in other ways -
We need to challenge our perception of men seeking help. Strength has many facets, and it includes emotional awareness, intellectual savvy and tactical planning. It is a sign of strength to learn what our vulnerabilities are, and to work out what our most constructive coping mechanisms are. When we are in distress, this can be difficult to do alone, and so it makes sense, it is a sign of strength, to seek help.
In an article in the Guardian Matt Haig quoted from the book ‘White Noise’ (Don DeLillo): ‘What could be more useless than a man who couldn’t fix a dripping faucet - fundamentally useless… to the messages in his genes?” And Haig added: “What if, instead of a broken faucet it is a broken mind?”
We need to normalise the concept of a man seeking help. To seek help for emotional distress is just about as normal as a man fixing a tap.
Chris Warren-Dickins BACP Registered Counsellor
Counselling and coaching blog