Since the mid 1990’s Three-quarters of registered deaths by suicide were among men. In 2018 in the UK, 4,903 men took their own lives (Office of national statistics, 2019). What an alarming number this is.
An issue faced with trying to improve male mental health is that men may be reluctant to seek help from professionals for both mental and physical health concerns. Some studies have also found that even if men do engage in treatment, they may be more likely to drop-out.
Due to this, many areas of contemporary medicine are looking at treatments offered to prevent suicide, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse. Much research suggests that physical activity can improve symptoms of mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. Aerobic exercise has been associated with less severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, even after a single session of exercise.
My own study of 70 male participants also found that frequent exercise can be a contributing factor to self-reported male mental wellbeing and is therefore certainly something to be encouraged to improve male mental wellbeing.
Knowing that physical activity can aid mental health across all age groups, changes could be made at school age to increase the amount and types of physical activity that takes place in the school setting, to improve and maintain good mental health for future generations in order to reduce male suicide rates.
This could also be extended to all workplaces, and instead of just offering reduced gym fees, companies could actually provide a space in the working environment that allows staff to complete physical activity during their lunch break, or before and after their shift so that it can become part of the individuals daily routine. These suggestions together with increased funding into mental health, better access to therapy and a greater awareness of male mental health should help to build a better future for the differing treatment options for male mental health, for better wellbeing, less male suicides, and the ability to offer a person centred approach that ultimately improves an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing.
However, what about now? How do we encourage men to seek help when they need it, or to even recognise that they need support, and that support is available to them? Especially in the uncertain times we currently find ourselves in, we need to now, more than ever let men know that it is okay to not be okay and it is vital to seek support when needed.
MEN – Reach out, speak to a friend, research the resources available to you, or please do get in touch for a confidential chat on what support is offered for you – you are not alone.
Bernstein, E., and McNally, R. (2018) ‘Exercise as a buffer against difficulties with emotional regulation: A pathway to emotional wellbeing’, Behaviour Research and Therapy. Vol 109, pp 29-36. Available at:
Brown, J., Sagar-Ouriaghli, I., and Sullivan, L. (2019) ‘Help-Seeking Among Men for Mental Health Problems’ in Barry, J.A., Kingerlee, R., Seager, M., and Sullivan, L. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. 1st ed. 2019, pp 397-415. Available at:
https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/open/reader.action?docID=5721660 (Accessed 04/04/2020)
Office of National Statistics, (2019). ‘Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations’. Available at: