Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat party, has announced that mental health checks for men in their 40s would be a key part of their policy. Women who have recently given birth and pensioners would also be included in the plans, which Cooper feels will put mental health back on the political radar.
Currently, everyone between the age of 40 and 74 in England is offered a free physical health check for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and to assess the risk of developing serious health issues such as cardiovascular or respiratory problems in the future. People over the age of 65 are also told about the signs and symptoms of dementia.
These tests are able to pick up illnesses in the early stages, offering the best treatment and prognosis, and ultimately preventing early deaths. However, at present there is no element of mental health taken into account during the checkup.
Rates of moderate or severe depression have almost doubled in the UK since the onset of the pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Between July 2019 and March 2020 prevalence was 10%, but that rose to 21% by March 2021.
Rates have subsequently dropped to 16%, but that is still a significant number, and probably far lower than the true total due to the cultural taboos and stigmas that still surround mental health, particularly for males.
Despite greater awareness and discussion of mental health issues, many men still do not feel able to speak openly about what they are suffering. This can affect their quality of life, relationships, and even lead to health problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, for younger men, stress and other emotional problems are the most probable cause of ED.
Males account for about three-quarters of all suicide rates in the UK. The latest figures show that males aged between 50-54 have the highest suicide rate, at 22.5 per 100,000. They also show a slight increase since the start of the pandemic in 2020, but these figures may not be the whole picture because of delays in reporting and registration.
Cooper told the Independent: “I’m determined that we will win the battle of ideas on how we transform the nation’s physical and mental health, empowering people to live long and healthy lives and to save our NHS.”
She added: “ “Under this Conservative Government, mental health has dropped off the political radar. Yet we know the nation’s deteriorating mental health is one of the biggest challenges we face.”
The culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ is often blamed for the high rates of mental health problems in men. This encourages a mindset of mental toughness and competitiveness, and any sign of weakness is mocked or laughed at. For this reason, men will often not discuss their problems with family and friends.
Men may also find it difficult to talk to a doctor. However, it is important to remember that doctors have heard it all before and will listen without judgment to any concerns.
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