Pioneering role aims to support men’s wellbeing in our region

Posed by model. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Posed by model. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A pioneering new role has been created to support men suffering with mental health issues, as research has shown a 6pc rise in male psychological distress in just one generation.

Gabriel Abotsie will take up the position of men's wellbeing nursing lead at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) later this month, after they were awarded a £118,000 grant in July.

It was given to help the trust improve mental health help for boys and men.

In Norfolk and Waveney, the most recent statistics show suicide rates are highest in men aged 35 to 64 followed by men between 18 and 34.

The lower rates were for women aged 35-64, with young women aged 18-34 having the lowest rates of all.

National statistics on men's mental health

National statistics on men's mental health - Credit: Archant

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In one year, in Norfolk and Waveney 44,434 men were recorded as having a common mental disorder, some 12,086 had suicidal thoughts, and there were 1,777 suicide attempts.

In that time 35,753 men in Norfolk and Waveney were reported as having depression.

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Mr Abotsie said: 'We know from statistics if we look at suicide rates, it's higher in men aged 60 years and below.

'When I start my role, I'll be looking to increase accessibility and making sure we engage with men better so they can get the best care.'

Norwich MIND. Nigel Thomas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich MIND. Nigel Thomas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

It comes as new research has shown those born from the early 1960s to mid 1970s – known as Generation X – suffer poorer mental health in mid-life than those born between around 1946 and 1964 – known as the baby boomers, with psychological distress more prominent in men.

The report, from the UCL Institution of Education, found among those born in 1958, 10pc of men suffered from distress, compared to 16pc of those born in 1970.

Although women were more likely than men to report poor mental health in both generations, the rate rose less sharply for them – from 16pc in 1958 to 20pc 12 years later.

But the lead author, Dr George Ploubidis, said that although the two generations experienced different upbringings, these had only a modest effect in explaining the increase in poor mental health.

He instead suggested that other factors in early adulthood and middle age could be responsible for the differences in mental health between the two groups.

In Norfolk and Waveney, 7,600 men in Generation X previously reported having a personality disorder. This was compared to 6,300 in the baby boomer generation. And in a report published by Norfolk County Council this year, it said 76pc of suicides in the county were men.

Nigel Thomas, from Rollesby, is a peer support worker with the Norfolk and Waveney Wellbeing Service.

At 62, he is part of the baby boomer generation, and thinks the difference is done to changing attitudes.

'I was first told I was depressed in 1978 and naturally, being a fit young man, I ignored it and just put on a brave face,' said Mr Thomas.

He said he'd been involved in mental health for a few years, and before it was unusual to see a man accessing support, but he thought more men might have come forward for help as the years went on.

'It's become more acceptable, it used to be that blokes were told to man up, don't cry. It's a change of attitude over time.'

And Mr Abotsie is hoping to contribute to this change in attitude, by encouraging men to seek out help if they're having mental health issues. 'It's all centred on the fact that men might need different services,' he said. 'I'm planning on going out and working with the teams and the GPs to see how we can better engage with men.'

If you would like to speak to someone regarding your own metnal health, you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on 116 123 or email

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