How Divorce Affects Men’s Mental Health

Posted on: 7 mins read
Last updated:
Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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Mental health problems affect around one in six adults. And, with more and more people coming forward to speak openly about their mental health experiences, it’s no longer the taboo topic that it once was.

At least it isn’t for Men, who make up approximately half of the population.

One in eight men suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), but only one in four seek help for it.

As a result, men’s mental health issues are often left undiagnosed. This is why three times as many men die from suicide than women.

Suicide caused by mental health issues is the biggest killer in men under 50.

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Why men don’t get help for mental health issues?

There could be any number of reasons why men find it hard to talk about or seek help for their mental health struggles. It’s a personal thing that’s different for everyone.

 

Gender stereotypes

In the battle for equality, we often talk about derogatory female stereotypes and how women are expected to look and behave in a certain way. But what about the stereotypes that men deal with?

As a society, men can often feel they are expected to be these tough, strong, alpha males who aren’t afraid of anything. Talking about or displaying emotion can be seen as a weakness and it’s this type of stereotypical view that can stop men from opening up and admitting that they need help.

So, instead of talking about their feelings, men may be forced to bottle them up. This makes mental health issues worse and explains why so many men’s mental health problems may go untreated.

 

A lack of self-awareness or understanding of mental health issues

Although there’s so much information about mental health awareness online, there’s still a huge gap in knowledge and understanding about mental health issues and what symptoms to look out for. For example, many people think that the biggest sign of depression is feeling sad or emotional. But that’s not always the case.

Depression can present itself in all sorts of ways such as:

  • Chronic indecisiveness
  • Lethargy
  • A lack of self-care
  • Feeling irritable
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Drinking more than normal
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Long-term pain

So sometimes, men don’t come forward when they’re suffering from a mental health issue because they don’t know they have a problem: It can be difficult to know what’s normal and what isn’t.

 

Ignoring or downplaying symptoms

I think we can all probably relate in some way to this one. It’s sometimes easier to brush off feelings and emotions than it is to face them. It’s easy to think that they’ll pass and ‘it’s not that bad’. And, with the gender stereotyping issues we discussed earlier, men can become especially bad at acknowledging the severity of their problems, preferring to ‘man-up’ rather than admit to how they’re truly feeling.

These are just a few reasons why men might find it difficult to get help for their mental health issues.

 

But what tends to trigger mental health problems in men?

Again, the reason someone might be struggling with their mental health is personal, and it could be down to anything from past trauma to a life-changing event, such as divorce.

In fact, research has shown that one of the most common triggers for mental health problems in men is the breakdown of a marriage: Men are twice as likely to suffer from divorce-related depression than women.

 

Why does divorce cause more mental health problems for men than women?

With a once-blooming relationship in tatters, the prospect of a divorce is overwhelming and can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression in most people, but men especially.

 

A woman is more likely to ask for a divorce than a man

Statistics show that when a marriage ends, it’s women who will initiate divorce proceedings around 61% of the time. Whether it’s because the pair are mismatched as a couple, have less of a need for interdependence, or it is due to a caregiving and childcare mismatch. Their decision to divorce their partner can sometimes catch men off-guard.

Unlike their ex-partner, they’ve had no time to process the idea of divorce and contemplate their future as a divorcee. Plus, if the divorce papers came out of the blue, they’re unlikely to have a Family Lawyers in place to support them through the legal process. This will feel overwhelming and, understandably, create feelings of turmoil, stress, and anxiety.

If you’re in this situation yourself, please do contact the Family Law team at Simpson Millar. We will help and support you through the whole thing.

 

Men worry that they’ll lose custody of their children

Historically, because of the ways in which many families operated, with a male breadwinner and a female homemaker, it was more common for women to assume custody of children.

This isn’t the case anymore.

Families are much more fluid; parents are edging closer to having equal roles both in the home and in work, and the law now assumes children will want to spend a meaningful amount of time in the care of each parent. The Courts will always put the best interests of the child first. But many men still fear that they’ll lose their children in a long, drawn-out battle.

Now called Child Arrangement Orders, today, both the father and the mother have equal rights over the children. Indeed, even grandparents or anyone else with parental responsibilities can apply for this court order.

If you need to speak to an expert on child arrangements, speak to our Family Law team. We’ve helped so many of our clients secure a framework for their children, to protect their relationships.

 

Men are less likely to have a support system

Again, linking back to the age-old gender stereotypes, men don’t tend to talk about their feelings with their friends or family. Instead, they soldier on, brushing their feelings aside until they become too much. They don’t tend to have safe support systems in place like a lot of women do.

 

How does divorce affect children?

Divorce is not exactly a happy time for any member of the family. But how can divorce affect children in particular? Divorce is always at least somewhat stressful for children. However, some kids seem to pick up faster than others.

Of course, any child will feel a certain amount of anger, anxiety, fear, or stress at their new living situation. Young children may not grasp why they now must move between two homes all the time, while older children can feel that they did something wrong, that somehow the divorce is their fault. Teenagers, on the other hand, can become very angry about the disruptive changes a divorce creates. Teenagers can blame one or both parents for the new arrangement of the family. Divorce definitely increases the risk of mental health problems for children, across cultures.

Fathers might feel that their relationship with the child is affected due to a divorce. This might lead to a range of emotions from worry, anxiety or even depression. However, fathers can help their children adjust to the changes a divorce brings. It’s important that both parents try their best to avoid putting the children in the middle and teach the child specific coping skills. You should also make an agreement with your ex-partner to discipline your children consistently. If your child is an adolescent, be sure to monitor them closely and spend time with them. Above all, empower your child to deal with any new situations with ease!

 

Divorce is not something you should go through alone

If you’re suffering from any form of mental health issue, it’s important to talk about it to friends or family. Or If that feels too hard, try one of the below helplines.

Andy’s Man Club: Andy’s Man Club runs a series of talking groups all over the UK. They offer men a safe environment to come and talk about issues they’ve either faced or are currently facing. Here’s a list of upcoming groups.

Samaritans: You can contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Either call them on 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit a branch in person.

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: These people are open 24/7 and offer a supportive listening service to anyone that is suffering from thoughts of suicide. Call them on 0800 689 5652.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): Sometimes the nights can be the worst time for mental health problems. Your thoughts can quickly spiral out of control, especially if you’re on your own. Contact CALM on 0800 58 58 58 from 5pm–midnight every day if you are struggling and need to talk. Or, if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.

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References

Bishop, K. (2022) Why women file for divorce more than men, BBC Worklife. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220511-why-women-file-for-divorce-more-than-men (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Getting a divorce or dissolving a Civil Partnership (2023) nidirect. Available at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/getting-divorce-or-dissolving-civil-partnership(Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Getting a divorce or dissolving a Civil Partnership (2023) nidirect. Available at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/getting-divorce-or-dissolving-civil-partnership (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Group, P. (no date) 40% of men won’t talk to anyone about their mental health, Priory. Available at: https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/40-of-men-wont-talk-to-anyone-about-their-mental-health#:~:text=A%20fifth%20of%20men%20(19.5,2020%20were%20for%20men%20%5Bsource%5D (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Nicholls, K. (no date) Key statistics about men and mental health, Counselling Directory. Available at: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/men-and-mental-health-stats.html#howcancounsellinghelp (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Life after divorce: 7 survival tips for men (no date) Movember. Available at: https://us.movember.com/story/life-after-divorce-for-men (Accessed: 07 November 2023). 

Amy Morin, L. (2022a) The psychological effects of divorce on children, Verywell Family. Available at: https://www.verywellfamily.com/psychological-effects-of-divorce-on-kids-4140170 (Accessed: 09 November 2023). 

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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