Strong friendships vital to good mental health - men urged to look after their friendships

Strong friendships are important for good mental health, yet men are less likely to turn to their peers for emotional support as they reach middle age.

This is the time that men are most at risk of suicide, so as part of Men’s Health Week 2016, Samaritans is encouraging men to make time for their friendships and to be there for each other.

A report by Samaritans has looked at men, suicide and society and considered men’s personal relationships in mid-life and the difference between male and female relationships in particular.

As women age they continue to maintain close, nurturing friendships, however it has been shown that men are less likely to turn to their male friends as the first port of call for emotional support, relying more on their partners to help them get through tough times.*

Men do have emotionally meaningful friendships, which are important to them, however they do not tend to talk to their friends about emotional issues on a regular basis and prefer friendships based on companionship through doing activities together.

Men in mid-life are dependent primarily on female partners for emotional support, which for some can mean experiencing unexpected feelings of loneliness when a relationship breaks down.

Recent research has also found that men tend to have more casual friendships and may not be as emotionally close to their friends as women are.**

Samaritans Executive Director for Ireland, Catherine Brogan, said: “We know that men, particularly men in middle age, are at an increased risk of suicide. Throughout history, men have been placed within a role that portrays them as independent, in control and never vulnerable. This can make it difficult for men to talk about how they are feeling, making them more likely to internalise their feelings than women”.

“We want to encourage men to nurture their friendships so that they can talk and listen to each other when times are tough. Being able to talk to someone you trust can make a huge difference to how you feel.”

 “While women maintain close same-sex friendships throughout their lives, men’s friendships tend to drop away after 30, meaning they’re more reliant on their female partner for emotional support. Because of this, the breakdown of a relationship and possible separation from children can have a much more profound effect on men who may not have a strong support network as their female counterparts”, Catherine said.

Samaritans believes it is important to recognise that for men in mid-life, loneliness can be a significant cause of their increased risk of suicide. Because of this Samaritans encourage men to strengthen their friendships this #MHW2016 and beyond, by reaching out and increasing their support network.

Anyone can contact Samaritans; you don’t have to be suicidal. Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.ie to find details of your nearest branch.

For further information, please contact the Rachel Wright or Trudy McCarthy on 016710071/085960554 or at r.wright@samaritans.org or t.mccarthy@samaritans.org

-ENDS-

*Men, Suicide and Society http://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/research-report-men-suicide-and-society

**Bhattacharya K, Ghosh A, Monsivais D, Dunbar RIM, Kaski K 2016 Sex Differences in Social Forms across the life cycle in humans. R Soc. Open sci 3: 160097 http://dx.doi.org/rsos.160097 http://rsosroyalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/4/160097

 

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • National Men’s Health Week runs from June 13 – June 19. This year’s theme is Men United- for health and wellbeing.
  • Celebrated on a global scale, #MHW2016 aims to:
  • Heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.
  • Support men and boys engage in healthier lifestyles.
  • Encourage the early detection and treatment of health difficulties.
  • More information is available at http://www.mhfi.org/mhw