With last week’s International Men’s Day turning the spotlight on the male population, one psychologist has offered his advice on ensuring mental health is supported.

In the UK alone, one in eight men will suffer with a recognised mental health condition, and suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 50. Research has shown that 83 per cent of men find it helpful to be asked if they are having a difficult time, but 46 per cent said that no one had done so during the pandemic.

And so, Dr Jonathan Pointer, Chartered Clinical Psychologist at TherapySanctuary.com, has offered some important advice, including lifestyle changes you can make.

  • Connect with others: Having good relationships helps to build self-worth and can provide better emotional support. While it’s difficult to arrange days out or meals with friends in the current circumstances, making the most of technology even to touch base with someone you’ve not spoken to in some time can feel really worthwhile.
  • Stay physically active: You don’t have to be running marathons; even a little exercise every day can cause chemical changes in the brain that lift your mood. Setting goals and achieving them, however big or small, also helps to raise your self-esteem. Find something joy and make it part of your life, rather than forcing yourself to do exercise as a chore.
  • Cut out unhealthy habits: Processed foods, excessive alcohol and cigarette smoking can all be severely detrimental to your mental health. A recent study, Quitting Smoking for Mental Health, found that cigarettes directly impact mental as well as physical health. Ex-smokers said that they saw an immediate improvement in their mental health after quitting, and the effect was even greater after four weeks.
  • Learn new skills like cooking, a DIY project, painting or a new sport: Focusing your mind on something engaging boosts self-confidence and helps you to build a sense of purpose. You could even sign up to a course or try taking on a new responsibility at work.
  • Pay attention to the present: Practising mindfulness can help you to enjoy daily life more and to understand yourself better, which has a real impact on your overall mental wellbeing. There are many different to be mindful and you’re sure to find one that works for you.

When offering someone else support, create a safe environment, where they will not be overheard or interrupted, give them time and space, because this is their process of opening up, go slow and don’t pressurise, and listen without judgement

Dr Jonathan Pointer added that the issue of shame is often a large barrier to men, regarding the process of opening up about their mental health issues, because of unhelpful beliefs about masculinity, mental health issues, and seeking support. He added that these beliefs are unhelpful, and do not serve anyone well.

Charities that can offer support for male mental health includes Movember, Heads Together, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink and Time to Change.