The ‘strong, silent type’ is often seen as the epitome of manliness. Resilience is good, but trying to battle a mental health issue alone is not. Dr Ken shares some options for help.

Mental health problems are one of the commonest reasons patients speak to me as a GP. For too long mental health was a taboo subject for men. Fortunately, this is changing and, although women still present more often than men, it is becoming much commoner for men with mental health concerns to seek help. The days of ‘real men don’t cry’ should be consigned to history!

Every week, one in six adults have symptoms of a common mental health problem – and one in five have considered taking their own life at some point. Half of all adults believe they have had a mental health problem at some stage in their life. Suicide is significantly commoner in men than ladies.

The commonest problems include generalised anxiety, depression, phobia, and panic disorder. Bipolar disorder (where your mood swings from very low to very high and overactive) affects 1-2% of the population. 


Please speak to your GP if you are struggling with your mental health. We can assess and usually make a diagnosis, offer advice, refer for talking therapies, signpost to support services, or prescribe medication. If required, we can refer to local mental health services for more specialist help.

 In addition I encourage my patients to look at the NHS five steps to mental wellbeing, to help themselves:

■ Connect with other people: for example, family or friends.

■ Be physically active – there is good evidence for the mental health benefits of exercise.

■ Learn new skills – for example cooking, DIY or a new hobby.

■ Give to others – your time, your support, and your interest.

■ Practise mindfulness.


Talking therapies are psychological treatments for mental and emotional problems. They all involve working with a trained therapist in various ways – one-to-one, in a group, online, over the phone, with your family or with your partner. They include:

■ Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – to help you explore and change how you think about your life and free yourself from unhelpful patterns of behaviour.

■ Guided self-help – you work through a CBT-based workbook or computer course with the support of a therapist.

■ Counselling – you talk in confidence to a counsellor who helps you find ways to deal with difficulties in your life.

■ Behavioural activation – to help give you motivation to make small, positive changes in your life.

■ Interpersonal therapy – this helps you identify and address problems in your relationships with family, partners and friends.

■ Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) – if you have post-traumatic stress disorder this helps the brain reprocess traumatic memories of the traumatic event so you can let go of them.

■ Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy – helps you focus on your thoughts and feelings as they happen moment by moment.

Talking therapies require significant effort, but are very effective.  


Men are getting better at seeking help for mental health problems. There is help available from lots of places. Real men do cry – and it is OK to say “I’m not OK”. Ask for help.

All images: Getty

Dr Ken

Dr Ken Ferguson is a GP based in Glasgow with many years’ experience of working in varied roles across the NHS. He has a professional interest in facial aesthetics as well as general practice. He is a keen runner, enjoys cooking and is an enthusiastic dressmaker.

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