Men’s mental health issues: time to open up and talk about it

Twelve years ago, each November, men around the world began putting down their razors to take part in a movement.

“Movember” advocates growing a moustache – in the spirit of original “Mo Bros” such as Groucho Marx, Freddie Mercury, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds – to spread awareness about screening for prostate cancer and to raise funds for treatment and research into the disease.

In 2014 the Movember Foundation – a global charity set up in 2004 to raise funds and awareness for men’s health – began highlighting mental-health issues in addition to cancer awareness. It has since become the largest funder of targeted mental-health programmes for men, focusing on prevention, early intervention and stigma reduction.


The Movember Foundation believes that as society becomes more ­complex, more men experience ­mental-health difficulties, with suicide rates increasing and more men being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. According to Movember, men “struggling with their mental well-being ­remain hidden from services and are not being adequately supported or reached with current ­mental-health ­provision”.

“That’s absolutely true, especially in the UAE and in the Middle East as a region,” says Jared Alden, a psychotherapist at the German Neuroscience Center in Dubai. “It’s been considered a ­taboo subject for far too long and if we continue to pretend it doesn’t exist, men will continue to suffer with worsening symptoms.”

Alden says that men tend to think that if they ignore emotional issues, they will go away, which is why they often wait until the situation is intolerable before seeking help.

“I see many men in my practice, yet not in line with our population, which is heavily male,” he says. “Even in Dubai, men still avoid seeking treatment. I will often see men who have ­suffered for years with anxiety and ­depression.”

Alden says more mental-health services, internationally recognised specialists, and support groups are needed to address treatment for, and the stigma associated with, psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“Men in particular are always our lowest percentage of patients,” he says. “It’s considered a sign of weakness for a man to get physically ill, so can you imagine owning up to mental illness?”


The full original article was published in The National, by Hala Khalaf, November 6, 2016