Post from Sept 2011
I have been looking at mental health statistics this week following the staggering news that 38% of the population of Europe suffer from a mental health disorder, in any one year.
Thankfully the equivalent figures for UK adults are lower at 25% but it is clear that this marks a serious gender divide. Overall nearly a third of British women will be treated for some kind of mental health disorder, compared to 17% of men and the most common disorder, depression, is suffered by 25% of women, but only 10% of men. This is a significant difference but it does reflect my own experience as a practitioner, (currently 80% of my practice is female). Many commentators have put forward reasons for this, from the stress of the career woman struggling to make it in a man’s environment, through the loneliness’ of the full time mum, to the impossibility of “having it all”. Personally don’t think women are any more susceptible than men, rather, that they are better at recognising when they need help, and actually using this help constructively. Again, from my own experience women are more likely to opt for counselling, but also tend to have more commitment; they are less likely to miss sessions or “give up” on therapy, and so get more benefit from it.
For men, it seems that the messages they learn in childhood (big boys don’t cry) carry on through life. That tendency to try to ignore or blot out problematic feelings is perhaps reflected in the fact that that over 75% of adults dependent on alcohol or cannabis are men. Where feelings cannot be faced by the individual, sharing them is always going to be hard, but such an inability to seek help can be fatal; men are in fact three times more likely to kill themselves and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 35.
But, there is hope; 50% of those who suffer from the most common mental health problems (including depression and anxiety) do report improvement after 18 months. It is possible to turn things around, be it anti-depressants, therapy or a combination of both. The important thing is that help is available to both men and women.