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WARNING TRIGGERING CONTENT:

I will be referring to death by suicide in this article.

Welcome to the Carers’ Hearts.

This week I am exploring why it matters to recognise and support men’s mental wellbeing; how we are doing this in “March Male Carers Month 2021” and how we would like to continue with this in the future, by collaborating with carers support groups and organisations supporting men’s mental health.

In our first blog launching “March Male Carers Month 2021”, I mentioned that Carers UK estimate thatin the UK male unpaid carers represent nearly 50% of the estimated 13.6m  of individuals providing care for a loved one or friend (2020). However, they are less likely to self-identify as unpaid or working carers and there is very little research into the emotional and psychological challenges experienced by male carers, compared with female unpaid carers.

So, the aim of the focus month is to shine a light on the mental wellbeing of male carers and men’s mental health in general, by creating a series of interviews with male unpaid and working carers and hosting two free one-hour workshops, specifically for men, discussing mental health first aid and mental fitness.

But why is it important to highlight men’s mental health?

The shocking fact is that men account for three-quarters of all deaths by suicide in the UK (ONS Stats 2019), which equates to approximately 16.9 death per 100,000  men. I also learned from talking to Greg, Founder of Men Care Too in his inspiring interview published on the 10 March, that in Australia this figure is even higher, with 19.8 death per 100,000 population being men, as a result of suicide (AIHW Stats 2019) and that in the USA, men died by suicide 3.63x more often than women (AFSP Suicide Stats).

Sharing these statists surrounding male suicide does not, for one moment, dimmish the loss of any life, regardless of how that person identified themselves.  

They are meant to highlight that men’s mental health is a global issue and within that, male carers are a subsection who are first, less likely to identify themselves as being carers, so probably won’t reach out for help even if they are struggling with their mental health, and secondly, society is less likely to acknowledge that they need support, as they should just be able to ‘man up’ and cope.

The reasons that lead a person to take their own life are highly complex and, by their nature, very personal. However, as a group, male carers can often become socially isolated, even if they are still working or have a lot of male friends, due to the intense nature of the caring role. If you add into this, the fact that many men may have to give up their jobs or social activities, to care for their loved ones, this isolation can become almost total and to a certain extent, not noticed or acknowledged by those around them.

Talking about such a difficult and emotional topic, such as suicide, can raise uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. So, if you feel you need to talk to someone about your thoughts or emotions, we have shared links to support groups in the resource’s sections below and here are two UK 24/7, free support services, if you do feel you need to speak with someone, please do reach out:

Samaritans (text) 116123

Shout text service 85258

From the outside world’s perspective, the caring role is regarded as predominately a female issue. However, as I have already mentioned, we know that this is not the case, but it does add to the misnomer that ‘men are the providers and women are the carers’ and, this in itself, adds another barrier to men not feeling able to seek the help that they need, and this is something we would like to help to dismantle.  

In our first interview with the founder of Men Care Too in Australia, mentioned above, Greg shares his own experiences of being a young carer and now as an adult unpaid carer, he supports other male carers through his great work. He reflects candidly about the strong masculine culture in Australia which makes sharing facts, such as taking on a caring role difficult to talk about, particularly with work colleagues or other men in sports clubs or social groups. This often results in men slowly withdrawing from their social lives, making excuses as to why they can’t attend a certain event or go down the pub after work on a Friday, until they find they are almost completely isolated from their colleagues, friends and sometimes even their own family.

The next interview is with David and Richard, which was published on March 17. David, who cares for Richard, shared openly about the often-conflicting dynamics between being Richard’s life partner and his carer. Richard reflected back to when he cared for family members, which at times was intense and frustrating, due to having his knowledge and understanding about them dismissed by healthcare professionals due to his age. Now being the cared-for-person, Richard is aware that those early intense years of caring and suffering a personal significant traumatic life event, have had a material impact on his own personality and emotional wellbeing, which can have an impact on his relationship with David sometimes.

Following on from the excellent mental health workshop run by Andy Elwood at the beginning of March, the second and last free men’s mental wellbeing workshop will be on March 25 at 7.30 pm with Sak, founder of Orange Ball. Sak is an experienced coach and trainer, who specialises in men’s mental fitness and supporting men’s mental wellbeing.

Sak’s workshop “Take control of your mental fitness and prepare for life’s challenges”, is a practical & evidence-based workshop for male carers, will provide practical tools to help you to take control of your mental wellbeing. So, to get yourself booked onto this inspiring workshop please click on the Eventbrite link below.

“Take control of your mental fitness and prepare for life’s challenges”

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/140690879207

Then we will be finishing off the months thought-provoking interviews with Brian, a working male carer, who also champions other working carers, not only in his department but also across larger government departments. His informative and inspiring interview will be published as a podcast and blog on March 31.

So, what can we do for the future to continue to support the mental wellbeing of male carers?

It has always been the vision of Carers’ Hearts that in addition to our articles and podcasts, we would support unpaid and working carers through local and regional carers support groups and other not-for-profit organisations and we believe that is still the best way forward. We have been busy reaching out to like-minded organisations and carers groups over the last few months and have had the opportunity of meeting and chatting with some inspirational people.

One of those inspiring individuals is Peter, who runs a support group for male parent carers, on behalf of Parenting Special Children. Learning about the great work Peter is doing to support the male parent carers in his region and how important it is that their voices are heard, has encouraged us with the work we are already doing but we also recognise that although we are on the right track, to be able to really support groups like Peter’s, we need to think differently about how we go about delivering that support.  

So, for our 2022 “March Male Carers Month”, we will be increasing our collaborations with the amazing men already providing support for male carers, such as Greg and Peter, by ensuring that our focus month activities and events are designed and lead for men, by men. If you would like to be involved in helping us to develop a strategy for next year’s month of informative and empowering articles, workshops and webinars, supporting men’s mental wellbeing, please get in touch, it’s never too soon to start planning!

Thank you so much for reading this post. We hope you share the details about Sak’s workshops and read or listen to the brilliant interviews, which are a real opportunity to hear how men have taken on the caring role, in their own ways and share with us how they manage the emotional challenges of being a male carer. We hope you can join us again next time.

Resources

Suicide Support Links

UK Suicide Support

LifeLine Suicide Support: Australia

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: USA

References

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Andy Elwood – Mental Health First Aid Trainer and Men’s Mental Health Advocate

Australian Government: Deaths by suicide over time

Carers Trust – Husband, Partner, Dad, Son, Carer?

Carers UK – Estimated number of unpaid carers in the UK

Men Care Too

Men & Mental Health – A damaging stigma

ONS: Suicides in England and Wales: 2019 registrations

Parenting Special Children – Support Groups

Parenting Special Children – Facebook Page

Music Composed by Michael Coltham – Black Lab Music

Black Lab Music