Does being a man make it harder to ask for help?

Two things sparked off my wondering about men and counselling: a story a friend told me and reading an article about older men and suicide. I’ll start with the story first, as I’m always more interested in stories than facts. I believe they help us learn about ourselves and others in a seemingly effortless way.
So, my friend told me a shocking story about a married man with a two children (who go to the same school as her children). He left a note for his best friend, drove out into the woods and hung himself. His wife and family had no idea that he was even worried. It soon became clear that his business had been doing badly for some time and he would have gone bankrupt. I’m sure you can imagine the devastation that his suicide caused his wife and children, and all those who had known him. Even I, who only knew him as a character in a story, felt puzzled and sad and angry that he’d resorted to death rather than facing the financial mess.
I was left wondering what makes it harder for men to ask for help? I know as a counsellor that less men seek psychological help than women. In the article I read, the mental health charity Calm reported that men between the ages of 45 to 54 were most likely to seriously consider taking their own lives. Both charities and mental health experts are seriously concerned that across all age ranges there are far many more male than female suicides. Clearly ideas about men needing to be in control and in charge permeate our society – and therefore by default needing help is seen as unmanly.
What can we do to help men feel able to find the help they need? I believe that all of us – all genders, ages, sexualities, races and cultures – need to work at being open about our suffering. Depression, bereavement, anxiety, relationship difficulties etc., all those painful and potentially devastating parts of life, need to be talked about and experienced as something that no one should have to suffer alone.

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