When it comes to mental health, there is a group of people that we systematically lower. No, not ethnic minorities, homosexuals or women, but middle-aged men.
Doctors, campaigners, and politicians ignore them all, and as a result, many live in misery devastated by a mental illness that goes unnoticed and untreated.
It is a myth that younger men are the most likely to kill themselves. In fact, the number of suicides among middle-aged men is much higher.
An important reason why middle-aged men feel so isolated today is that in the rush of society to embrace diversity, they have been ignored. It is simply not fashionable to promote them [file photo]
There is increasing evidence that this group has mental problems, but nothing is being done about it.
According to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies this week, middle-aged people – mostly men – will increasingly be “dead of despair”. die as a result of low income, loneliness and loss of their family.
These deaths – from suicide and drug and alcohol abuse – have been increasing in the United States for decades and the report suggests that the same pattern is emerging here.
But what is really shocking is that suicide rates are rising in middle-aged men – in sharp contrast to the decline in deaths from physical conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
This is attributed to the increasing gap between rich and poor, but it does not explain why men are being hit disproportionately.
It shows that, for all progress in encouraging people to talk about their mental health problems, the revolution has not yet taken place as far as these men are concerned. We have turned their backs on them and ignored their suffering [file photo]
Men are to blame for not talking about their problems, but I also think that social shifts have resulted in a generation that feels disadvantaged.
Many middle-aged boys from poorer communities feel that they have fewer opportunities than in previous generations and that their status and safety have been undermined. For decades the professions that were most at risk of committing suicide were doctors, dentists, veterinarians and lawyers, but when the economic downturn occurred in 2008, workers were hit by workers.
Steve Dymond, who took his own life after his performance at the Jeremy Kyle Show, was an excavator who would split up with his fiancé. And although we have no idea what exactly drove him to suicide, he apparently had mental health problems for some time.
An important reason why middle-aged men feel so isolated today is that in the rush of society to embrace diversity, they have been ignored.
It is simply not fashionable to defend them. Middle-aged men are not a progressive or trendy cause, so their needs are not prioritized or even considered.
I have had training on the health needs of all demographers imaginable, from the disabled, to the transgender community and asylum seekers.
According to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies this week, middle-aged people – especially men – will increasingly be “dead of despair”. die due to low income, loneliness and dropout of their family [file photo]
But I have never been to a session about the problems of middle-aged men in the working class, although when I worked in drug and alcohol services, they were by far the largest group of patients.
Almost all of these men had the same story to tell: they had been married or lived with someone, had children, the relationship broke down, they had to leave the family home, they lost their jobs.
They felt unnecessary and alone. They turned to drink or drugs to fill the void and spiral their life out of control.
What struck me was that when I was working with homeless people, I came across them again – countless middle-aged men who had sunk to the bottom.
This group of men has some of the highest rates of mental distress – and yet the lowest level of antidepressants. This should shock us all.
It shows that, for all progress in encouraging people to talk about their mental health problems, the revolution has not yet taken place as far as these men are concerned.
We have turned their backs on them and ignored their suffering.
Your instinct can be the best doctor
A fascinating study by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published this week, suggested that people have evolved to accommodate subtle signs of infection in other people.
The study involved infecting volunteers with E. coli bacteria and some with a placebo, and then asking others to assess how sick they were by just looking at their faces – and they showed an eerie ability to choose those who were infected.
I think our ability to recognize when someone is sick is even stronger with people we know.
A fascinating study by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published this week, suggested that people have evolved to gain subtle signs of infection in other people [file photo]
On several occasions I have seen parents who felt that something was not quite right with their child when it was not clear to me, just because it turned out that their child was indeed not right. I'm sure it's because they unknowingly pick up subtle directions.
That is what happened to my older sister a few years ago. One evening when she brought her baby to bed, she felt something was wrong.
She called her doctor, but because he had no temperature or other symptoms – & # 39; he just didn't look good & # 39; – showed the doctor her way.
She went to bed but couldn't sleep. Still worried, she got up and drove to A & E. There they discovered that her baby had meningitis. If she had postponed a few hours, he would have died.
So listen to that little voice in your head. It has evolved over thousands of years to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Do not be deaf to dangers of dementia
This week The World Health Organization has drawn up a list of the 12 largest lifestyle choices and conditions that increase the risk of dementia.
Most of them were predictable: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity. But one stood out: hearing loss.
Deafness can be incredibly isolating and is associated with increased rates of depression and even suicide. But it is also linked to dementia, although exactly why is still being debated.
This week, the World Health Organization produced a list of the 12 largest lifestyle choices and conditions that increase the risk of dementia [file photo]
I know several older people who are very deaf, but refuse to go to the doctor. They are afraid of having hearing aids and & # 39; old & # 39; to appear.
This concern is widespread. Research shows that people usually need ten years from their first symptoms of hearing loss to seeking help.
Imagine people with failing vision waiting ten years before they get glasses? And only one in five people whose hearing is poor enough to justify a hearing aid actually has one.
Glasses are now a fashion accessory, but hearing aids are still seen as a sign of disability. People endanger their mental health because they postpone deferring help.
Just tell them you're sorry!
Official figures released this week show that the negligence fees in the NHS have doubled in the last five years. Documents show that the NHS paid out no less than £ 655 million in claims in 2017/18.
I think the rise reveals some of the problems in the heart of the NHS. Too often people feel frustrated and angry with their treatment, but they do not receive formal recognition or apology.
Is it any wonder that, when confronted with this, they resort to punishment through the courts to obtain justice? Is sorry really that & # 39; n hard word for the NHS to say? [File photo]
They write to hospital managers and chief executives, but receive no answer. They try to negotiate complaints procedures of Byzantine complexity when they just want to say someone who is sorry.
Over the years, many readers have contacted me to express their frustration about how their complaints and legitimate concerns are hindered by those in power in the NHS.
Is it any wonder that, when confronted with this, they resort to punishment through the courts to obtain justice? Is sorry really that & # 39; n hard word for the NHS to say?
There has been, understandably, an outbreak after Alabama became the last American state to effectively forbid abortion.
This is always an emotional issue, but what worries me about legislation like this is that it makes every calm, rational debate very difficult because views are so polarized.
However, I think we should look at our own abortion legislation because so much has changed since the 1967 Abortion Act.
The legal limit for abortion is 24 weeks here, but advances in medical science mean that babies born earlier than these can now survive.
We have to lower the limit to take this into account. Although I am in favor of the choice, the current situation makes me acutely uncomfortable.
Dr. Max prescribes for …
SMOKE AND MIRRORS: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MAGIC
I was overwhelmed by this wonderful exhibition in the Wellcome collection about magic and the human mind.
It is not only fun and entertaining, but surprisingly educational, and shows, for example, how unconscious prejudices can be used to influence our perception of things.
If you are near London's Euston Station, have a look. It runs until September 15, admission free. See www.wellcomecollection.org
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