How Divorce Affects Men’s Mental Health

Author:
Lorraine Harvey
Partner, Family Law
Date:
21/01/2022

Mental health problems affect around one in five 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 half 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.

How Does Divorce Affect Men's Mental Health?

Why are men so reluctant to get help when they’re struggling with their mental health?

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 stereotypical view of men?

As a society, men can feel they are expected to be these tough, strong, alpha males who aren’t afraid of anything. Talking about or displaying emotion is 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, they choose to bottle them up. This makes mental health issues worse and explains why so many men’s mental health problems go untreated.

A lack of self-awareness or understanding

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 stereotype issue we discussed earlier, men are 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.

Why?

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

Statistics show that when a marriage ends, women will initiate divorce proceedings 61% of the time. 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 Law Solicitor 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.

Call us on 0808 239 3465 or request a callback

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 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.

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.

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 jo@samaritans.org 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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