Young Men Are ‘Hidden Self-Harmers’ Says Study

Too many young men are suffering in silence and this is everyone's problem

Young Men Are 'Hidden Self-Harmers' Says Study

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

Britain, it seems, it No Country For Young Men. A new YouGov poll, commissioned by a coalition of three charities – the Mix, Self-Harm UK and Young Minds- has found that one in four young men are turning to self-harm as a result of depression, anxiety and stress.

The charities are referring to young men, as a demographic, as ‘hidden self-harmers’. The poll surveyed 500 men between the ages of 16 and 24. Of those, 24% said that they had hurt themselves on purpose and 22% said they had considered self-harm.

Sarah Brennan, the CEO of YoungMinds, hit the nail on the head and summarised this issue. ‘People often assume that young men rarely suffer self-harm, but this survey shows that, sadly, this is a myth. Self-harm is often misunderstood, so we need to better understand young men’s distress and their responses so that we can help. Our message to anyone who’s struggling to cope is to talk to someone you trust – whether that’s a friend, a family member, a counsellor or a confidential helpline. It isn’t a sign of weakness to look for help.’

The young men who were surveyed also disclosed that when they feel under pressure or stress, they are likely to drink heavily, punch walls and control their eating in order to cope. Obsessive extreme exercising, pulling hair and take drugs in order to deal with it.

In recent years the narrative around mental health has changed, we hear more about anxiety and depression and a great deal has been done to smash the stigma which surrounds mental health. However, a quick scroll through Instagram will tell you one thing about where we are at: it is, for the most part, women who are sharing their stories, discussing the problems they’ve faced and supporting one another.

It is very rare for young men to discuss these issues publically and there’s no doubt that cultural stereotypes that cast men as strong, tough, macho beings who do not show emotions, go through hard times or seek help from others do still persist. It’s for this reason that it was heartening to see a young man in the public eye like Stormzy speaking about how he overcame depression on Channel 4 News yesterday.

Of depression Stormzy explained, ‘I always saw myself as this strong person who just deals with life, I get on with it’ he said, ‘and if something gets me low I pick myself back up. That’s always been my philosophy. Even down to the point when one of my closest friends, who was suffering from it, I used to dismiss him. It wasn’t in a harsh way, I just used to think “be happy”.’ He then went on to explain that when he himself experienced depression he was unsure about whether or not to talk about it but, ultimately, he realised that in sharing his experience he might help others. He touched on the problem of stereotyping those people who experience anxiety and depression as ‘weak’ and those who just get on with it as ‘strong’ and how it is a barrier which makes some people feel that they can’t seek help.

The fact that the biggest killer of men under 45 in Britain is suicideconfirms that these prevailing ideas matter and that we must continue to challenge them. Based on the latest data published by the Office for National Statistics, 76% of all suicides were male. That is the highest rate this country has seen since 2001. It’s getting worse, not better.

The number of men I know who do not speak about the challenges they face and, instead, self-medicate with drink, drugs, fad diets and exercise because they feel that they have nowhere else to go is high. I know, anecdotally, from friends that this is common. And yet, we do not speak about it enough.

This isn’t just men’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem and we, as a society, need to do more to solve it. Nobody should suffer in silence.

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The Complex Reality Of Living With Long-Term Depression

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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