Men's Health Week: 11-17 June

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – 84 take their own lives every week. To mark National Men’s Health Week from 11–17 June, the University of Plymouth is shining a spotlight on how men can access mental health support, with key figures from around the institution sharing their stories.

If you are a University of Plymouth student and wish to access mental health support there are plenty of services available at the Student Wellbeing Services website.

Alex Doyle – President-Elect for the Students' Union

"Male mental health problems are on the rise and can affect everyone but the stigma and discrimination surrounding it can stop people opening up about their experiences and seeking the help needed. Talking about men’s mental health as a starting point will help remove those barriers."


"Mental health is never an easy subject to speak about, and sometimes it can be impossible to explain. I suffered from anxiety in my late stages of school all the way through to mid degree and during that time I was unaware to what was going on in my mind, which made things spiral out of control. It wasn’t easy to speak about, so I didn’t and buried my head in the sand. I only started addressing the issues when I saw other people doing the same. People around me speaking openly about mental health and reducing the stigma is what encouraged me to talk and it helped. It’s likely that even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness yourself, you probably know someone close to you that does, and just being open to talk about it can make all the difference. It did for me."

"My role as elected president at the University of Plymouth Students’ Union means that I primarily have to represent the student body to improve their university experience, whether that be socially, academically all the way through to making sure the mental health facilities for our students are adequate. Students reducing the stigma and openly talking about mental health is making it easier to us to fight for a more inclusive and accommodating community.

The student wellbeing service on campus is the perfect starting point for any student wanting support surrounding mental health. It’s important that all men know that help is available on campus and even through e-counselling to those not local."

Ben Dobson - 3rd year BSc (Hons) Nursing (Mental Health)

"I trained as a counsellor and volunteered in drug and alcohol as well as gender/ sexuality services. More recently I have been working with students experiencing their own mental health problems whilst at university."

"As part of my training as a nurse I support people that may have more complex mental health needs in services designed specifically for mental health. We all have mental and emotions and there are going to be times for some of us when we need extra support to deal with them, whether because of life stressors, addictions or natural changes."

"Everything I do is focused on people that have already identified that they need extra support around their mental health. I signpost students to the different services in the local area and spend time helping them address some of the barriers that may effect their learning and everyday life whilst at university. This may be understanding how their diagnosis affects them, supporting them practically through periods of change in medication or helping them create personal plans to address their specific needs whilst at university to keep them safe. A lot of my time is spent understanding how each individual student is affected, listening to their experience and supporting them to make decisions at university to enable them to do the things that are important to them. I am not here to judge, a lot of my time is spent giving students a chance to feel heard by listening to them. I'm inspired by the students that I work with and admire their determination to overcome obstacles."


"Men's mental health is especially important as we know that men are at higher risk of suicide and less likely to ask for help than their female counterparts."

"Sadly, a culture has developed where it has been seen as 'unmanly' to talk about mental health and there is still a lot of unnecessary stigma around men talking about their feelings. It’s important to me that men understand there is no shame in talking about being unwell or asking for help, in the same way there is no shame in breaking a leg. There's a lot of new pressures on men in 2018, particularly when at university; being away from home, pressures to get good grades, financial pressures, friendship groups and image based ideals from social media, that the older generations didn't experience."

"The more we can talk about mental health with other men, the more likely we are to reduce the stigma and more men will seek help and feel less isolated. We also need to look out for each other and recognise when mates are changing or need extra support and not be afraid to ask difficult questions...and be prepared to listen - it sounds dramatic but it can be the difference between life and death."

"If you are at university and need some extra support then a good place to start is the Learning Gateway, they can advise on the best services for you whether it be counselling, joining one of the support groups or an assessment for 1:1 support whilst at university. GP's are also a good place to go, they can refer on to specialist services and groups for things like CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) as well as provide information on medication, should they think you need it. If you’re feeling suicidal it’s really important to tell someone and get yourself emergency support."

Read Ben's insight into studying mental health at Plymouth.

Adrian Taylor - Associate Dean for Research

"Much of my research over the last 30 years has focused on the link between physical and mental health, and as a keen outdoor runner and cyclist, my experience has been that exercise helps me to keep mentally robust and physically fit. I have an exercise diary going back over 40 years so I have always made the space for this. Even at the age of 62, I compete in 25-30 orienteering events a year (45-60 minute cross country races with a map), and usually find 2-3 hashes (see http://www.swh3.info/ ) per week which start at 7.30pm throughout the year to use for training. Getting out in the fabulous Devon countryside in the sunshine or dark (with a head torch) with 20-60 others, totally gets my mind off a very intensive job as Associate Dean for Research and managing £3.5m of grant income, and helps me to sleep. And the hash groups include people aged 10-80 years (out for an hour or so at their own pace) which adds to the social benefits and further distraction. I have always worked at least 50 hours a week and now, still have the energy to work hard and play hard. I am not addicted to exercise but am not sure how resilient I would be if I didn’t do it.

Such is my interest in the subject that 10 years ago I co-founded a journal looking at the clinical issues pertaining to physical activity and mental health – and today the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity (MENPA) is still going strong, with a worldwide editorial board.

MENPA has received several submissions in recent years which report on the effects of yoga and other multi-component (e.g. physical activity and diet) interventions on various mental health outcomes. Other submissions have focused on the relationship between fitness and mental health. As a co-founding editor-in-chief of MENPA, alongside Guy Faulkner from the University of British Columbia, Canada, we have stuck to our original scope with a focus on the behavioural effects of physical activity on mental health and wellbeing – with new studies coming in all the time to enrich our understanding."

"Some sports (e.g. involving teams) are examples of a complex intervention because of the different ways participants may experience engagement. Without knowing if it is the physical activity or psycho-social experience that influences mental health outcomes (positively or negatively) it is difficult to design interventions and produce an evidence-base. It is very likely that physical activities involving some form of cognitive challenge have the greatest benefit for preventing cognitive decline in older people or enhancing cognitive growth in young people, but researchers will have to think carefully about how best to capture exactly what is in the intervention to enable replication across studies.

Starting with its inaugural issue in 2008, MENPA has adopted and maintained a focus on clinical issues pertaining to physical activity and mental health which clearly separated it from other physical activity-related journals. We wanted to create a forum in which people working from different disciplines could share findings, and explore different ways of looking at the interplay between physical activity and mental health. We remain the only journal that exclusively publishes research on the relationship between physical activity, exercise and sport, and dimensions of mental health and wellbeing – and we encourage submissions from all disciplines to add to the evidence base."

Find out more about the journal and the studies we publish in, MENPA – https://www.journals.elsevier.com/mental-health-and-physical-activity/

"The research we actually do aims to assess how best to support men (and women) to make health behaviour choices themselves, and mostly involves participants who have the most to gain. Many do find great value in our support (among the ones who receive it, as some get nothing if they are in a control group). By supporting sometimes even small changes in confidence, a sense of control or freedom to make choices, and connections with others we have seen some amazing changes in health behaviour such as physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption. But we never put pressure on people to change."

Find out more about some of the studies at:

e-coachER 
STRENGTHEN
TARS
PHASED

Ben Morris - 3rd year BSc (Hons) Nursing (Child Health)

"I am currently finishing my studies in children’s nursing after which I will be starting the role of Vice President of Sport at the Students' Union."

"In my role as a student nurse, I have experienced how health professionals support children with mental health issues and I have personally supported many children to open up and chat about mental health problems and help them find strategies to deal with their issues.

Male suicide is on the rise and men’s mental health can sometimes by hidden by young men trying to emasculate themselves in modern society and coming to university. I feel it is important to talk about men’s mental health in a sporting context as to look the best and be the best at a sport and the pressures sports players put themselves under can affect their mental health. That is why I set out in my manifesto for the Vice-President of Sport to achieve a greater support network in sports clubs to support the mental health of members by introducing a player welfare officer in bigger clubs."