Men & mental health: How to open up and start talking

Three young men are together in a group against a green background. Two of them are standing and wearuing white, blue and orange colours and one is sitting in a wheelchair wearing white and pink.

How to talk about your mental health as a man

When it comes to emotions and talking about our feelings, it’s kind of accepted that women and girls are more emotionally open. Men and boys on the other hand are typically seen as strong, fearless and less emotional. 

These stereotypes have been circulating for a long old time, but quite frankly they’re outdated and entirely unhelpful. Of course men feel emotions – we’re men, not robots. If you’re a young man who would benefit from opening up, we have the tools to help you get started. 

Why is it more difficult for men to open up?

We won’t rant on about social conditioning and gender as a construct. But basically, from a young age, boys are often told it’s not okay to talk about how they feel, or express it physically (eg, crying). Some men will be affected by this more than others, it all depends on your upbringing and the people you surround yourself with. Things that can make it difficult to open up include…   

  • Family – your parents and wider family may subscribe to masculine stereotypes and as a result you may feel the pressure to be stoic or to ‘man up’ when things get tough. 
  • Friends – if there’s a laddy culture among your friends with lots of banter and little emotional chat, it can be difficult to know how your friends will react if you open up. 
  • Culture – you may not notice it but a lot of what we see on films, telly, video games and social media subconsciously reinforces the message that men are strong and don’t need to talk about their feelings. 
  • Habit – the longer you leave it to open up to someone and express how you feel, the harder it can seem to break down that barrier in your relationship.

All this can mean men and boys often feel like their mental health issues are just something they have to endure. This is reflected in the fact that many more women than men will ask their GP for help with their mental health. This really shouldn’t be the case – everyone deserves help.

Where the hell do I start? 

First things first, identify what you’re feeling. Is it fear, anxiety, grief, sadness, anger or something else? These are all very normal emotions, but when they’re ignored or endured, they can get buried, making it harder to deal with later down the line, or they can start spiralling out of control. 

Once you have done this, it can be really empowering to simply acknowledge those emotions and try to accept them as they are, without trying to change anything. It’s ok if you fall apart sometimes, it’s what makes us human and it can even be a relief to let yourself wallow a little.

After identifying and accepting those feelings, it should be easier to express what you need to let out. The next thing to consider is who you want to talk to. Choose someone you feel comfortable with who you know will be respectful. This could be a friend, a partner or a family member, or you might feel more comfortable talking to someone outside of your social circle such as a teacher or a GP. For tips on how to start the conversation check out this article

If speaking to someone in person feels too much, it could be easier to talk to someone online or over the phone. At The Mix you can speak to a member of our team over the phone, by email or by live messenger chat. You can also join our community to chat to other young men who might be going through similar things.

Find a therapeutic hobby 

Even though the primary aim of joining a sports group (for example) is not to talk about your mental health, they can often provide a relaxed environment where you may eventually feel comfortable opening up. We spoke to Theo who told us about his experience of joining a running club… 

“I’d been really struggling with anxiety and I couldn’t find a way to tell anyone. I decided to join a running group because I’d heard that exercise could be good for anxiety. It’s probably the best thing I’ve done to support my mental health – I still go to the group now and although the running is great, the best bit is being part of a supportive community of runners who ask each other how they’re doing.”

There are many other types of hobbies that could help you find a supportive group of people, for example gaming and Twitch communities, joining a band or an orchestra, or finding an activist group that campaigns on things you feel strongly about.

A therapist could help

A lot of men say talking to a therapist changed their life for the better. If you think it could support you, you can access free therapy through your GP or through The Mix’s counselling service

Even if you don’t feel an urgent need for therapy, it can still be a brilliant place to get a bit curious about your mental health and wellbeing and find out a bit more about yourself and what you want from life.

If you decide to go private, you will have to pay, but you will have more choice. Our best advice here is not to rush when choosing a therapist – think of it a little like speed dating and try to meet a few different therapists before deciding on ‘the one.’ You can narrow down your search by considering the following things 

  • Think about which gender you might prefer in a therapist and whether the age of that person matters to you. 
  • Start with a little online research – websites such as BACP and UKCP have directories of therapists all over the country. Take a look at people’s websites and see if you can imagine having a connection with that person. 
  • If the first few people you meet don’t feel right, don’t be disheartened. Keep searching – there will be someone out there for you.

You deserve support

Remember that everyone deserves support for their mental health, no matter what their gender is. It’s the responsibility of us all to question and challenge macho stereotypes, to make space for ourselves to feel things, and to support others to do the same. 

If you find you’re not getting the support you need from the people in your life, it might be helpful to question why they feel so uncomfortable with you expressing how you feel. You might make them think twice about the pressure they are putting on you to behave a certain way as a man. Being connected to your emotions can be an important part of leading a fulfilling life and coping with the things life throws at you. No matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone and The Mix is here to listen.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide. Call their national helpline for free on 0800 58 58 58, 5pm-midnight, or visit their webchat service .
  • The Men's Advice Line offers support for men experiencing domestic violence from a partner, ex-partner or other family members. Call the confidential free helpline on 0808 801 0327, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123
  • Papyrus supports young people who are feeling suicidal - you can call, email or text them. Call on 0800 068 41 41.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 08-Jun-2022

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