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Interview with Claire Young, Student support & Guidance Tutor (UOB)

According to the Mental Health Foundation, three times as many men as women die by suicide every year, this is a rather disturbing statistic, one which Claire Young finds rather startling.  “Statistics don’t often land in my mind, but this one seems to never leave my memory”.

Claire Young is the Support and Guidance tutor (SGP) at the University of Brighton, her role in the university is to help many students with various aspects of their life, including the broad umbrella of mental health. A study from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) found that “about two in three (69%) students who die by suicide in UK universities are male”, and this number is on the rise.

The need for the support and awareness for men’s mental health has never been so necessary as it is today, Claire Young explained that this situation isn’t all that new, “from all the roles that I have been in, which are linked to mental health, it has always been emphasised that men especially find it more difficult to reach out”.

Men are less enthusiastic about counseling and other psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of NHS talking therapy patients being men, “in my role at the university, I can say that I often see that men really struggle with opening up, and they do not like to be seen in a vulnerable position in comparison to females”. The stigma surrounding men’s mental health is still lingering, with many male celebrities endorsing the trending phrase, ‘it’s ok to not be ok’, to try and break down this sense of embarrassment or shame, which men have when it comes to getting help or talking out.

Claire explained that in, “today’s society, there is still an emphasis on this stereotype when men are low or depressed, there is a tendency for them to reach for a drink or to take a drug to deal with it, but this is just pushing the issue(s) under the carpet”. The efforts to try to diminish this stereotype are ongoing, but there is only so much that you can push under the carpet, especially when there are lives at stake here.

“I have met with male students in the past, they tend to self-medicate more, that could be with alcohol or drugs, in comparison to female students, who tend to have more of a communal aspect, where it is common to cry it out together”.

The reasoning for this seems to a mainly societal but also biological, as mentioned for long-time men have been discouraged from discussing their sentiments, but Men talk, don’t bottle it, as even hearing other people talk about their experiences, even if you don’t know them, might help you feel less alone for example and provide you with some coping mechanisms.

This article isn’t going to rescue all men from this deadly stigma, but as a collective contribution it will help the cause, awareness and open dialogue is the antidote to overcome.

Every day of the year, Samaritans offer a 24-hour service by dialing 116 123. You can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org if you prefer to write down how you’re feeling or if you’re frightened about being overheard over the phone.

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