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“No coherent approach”: Charities react to lack of government strategy for the mental health of men and boys

The government has still not committed to a tailored approach for the male mental health crisis.

By Zoë Grünewald

This week, a number of men’s charities took to Twitter to express disappointment in the government for its failure to implement a coherent mental health strategy specifically targeted at men and boys. The Men and Boys Coalition said that the government has “no strategic, gender-informed or coherent approach”, while the ManKind Initiative said the current government approach to men’s mental health is not working.

Why now?

The House of Commons women and equalities committee questioned the minister of state for care and mental health, Gillian Keegan MP, and the minister for children and families, Will Quince MP, as a follow-up to its 2018 inquiry into the mental health of men and boys.

If it was a follow-up session, what did the committee say originally?

The predecessor committee had originally made a number of recommendations to the then minister for mental health, Nadine Dorries, including that the government should “improve its current understanding of the specific causes and impact of poor mental health for men and boys by commissioning appropriate pieces of research”.

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The committee had also reported that the Department of Health and Social Care should “give serious consideration” to creating and implementing a “National Men’s Health Strategy”, similar to the ones implemented already in Ireland and Australia. In particular, the committee emphasised the importance of effective data collection in dealing with the men’s mental health crisis.

And the department has made no progress on these recommendations?

Not enough, according to these charities.

When the committee originally launched the follow-up inquiry, it pointed out that three in four people who take their own lives are men, and that this is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. It also pointed out that 12.5 per cent of men in England are suffering from a common mental health disorder, and that men are three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. Back in May, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that hospital admissions for eating disorders among men have risen by 128 per cent in the past five years – from 280 hospital admissions to 637.

Yesterday, Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities committee, asked Keegan what was being done to address the issues raised by the predecessor committee. The minister admitted that there was “still more to do” and the government was “working to build their understanding”, citing recent events such as round tables and the launch of a consultation to inform a new 10-year mental health plan. Earlier this week, Keegan had also met with the Youth Policy Development Group to listen to their priorities, and wanted to “encourage children and young people to share their views and experiences on the support and services currently available to make sure our new ten-year plan works for you”.

However, the government has still not addressed the committee’s original concerns, as there was still no substantial commitment to a data-driven approach, nor a specific strategy for male mental health.

What did these groups say?

In response to Keegan’s evidence, the Men and Boys Coalition said: “To reframe: men are three-quarters of all suicides; around 13 men take their own lives each day; suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 45 and under. The lack of urgency from government in response to these appalling statistics is in fact scandalous.”

Is there anything I can do, as man, boy or anyone else, to share my views on this?

The government is working toward a 10-year mental health plan, for which it has launched the consultation mentioned above. It is urging young people to respond to this call for evidence to ensure their views and experiences are represented in the resulting work. Anyone can answer, and it closes on 7 July.

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