s the UK begins to unlock, we’re beginning to see some of the effects on the nation’s mental health caused by the Covid-19 pandemic starting to emerge.
Over the past 15 months, millions of people have had their lives seriously disrupted, and many are still struggling in difficult circumstances.
Although the majority of people believe they have coped well with the stress caused by the pandemic, there is evidence that some groups, particularly young people, have found life more difficult as restrictions continued.
Some of the social determinants of mental health, such as unemployment, poverty and deprivation, have been exacerbated by Covid. From Movember’s work in male mental health with thousands of men over the past 18 years, we know that gender also plays a role.
Movember’s mental health research
Many men rely heavily on their work to give them a sense of achievement and self-worth, and at present, huge numbers are facing unemployment or financial hardship.
When this crisis began, we urged our community to find ways of staying connected using technology, because we know how important it is for men to have strong social connections, particularly as they get older.
But the results of a six-month research project by Movember, looking at the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of men across the UK, Canada and Australia, have revealed that two in five men say they are now feeling isolated and distant from friends.
While the research found that relationships with immediate family members and partners became stronger during the second and third national lockdowns, a third of men told us they fear they have lost friendships they will never get back.
Nearly three out of five (58 per cent) of men reported experiencing poor wellbeing, according to the World Health Organisation Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5), and 31 per cent met the criteria for depression.
How Movember gets men to open up
One of the ways Movember is working to address the problem is to get men to understand what mental health is and why it’s important, and give them the tools they need to build resilience.
Through our work with YouTubers Callux, Munya and Deji, aimed at young men aged between 16-19, we spread the word that spending time with your friends is good for you and why bottling things up isn’t.
We’ve also developed digital tools such as Movember Conversations to encourage men to check in on their mates and give guidance on how to have some of those tough conversations.
Because men seem to find it easier to open up when they are doing something else, the projects we invest in are based around activity – whether that’s talking about football, learning to box or baking a pie.
Ahead of The Game, our face-to-face programme aimed at teenage athletes, is delivered through grassroots sport clubs. It teaches youngsters about mental fitness as well as tackling challenges and managing setbacks in life. It’s a community-led approach that includes workshops for sports coaches and parents on spotting warning signs in teens and what to do about it.
Why it’s time to reconnect
Technology played a vital role in keeping us connected during lockdowns when no other option was available.
But with the further easing of social distancing restrictions next week, we’re urging men to make the time to catch up with the people in their lives who make them feel positive and re-establish any friendships that may have drifted during lockdown.
Other positive coping strategies include setting ourselves physical challenges or activities that give us purpose and meaning or supporting mates who might be going through a bad time which creates positive feelings and increases our own self-worth.