November is Men’s Health Month and a key focus this year is on men’s mental health and the importance of talking. For male carers, this is even more important. Caring can have a huge impact on your mental health and it can be vital to tell others the impact it is having on you.
Finding it hard to say you are a carer
We are used to hearing many damaging phrases used like ‘men don’t cry’ or that you ‘just need to get on with it’ so it’s understandable if you find it hard to speak out, even if you know these statements are not true. In fact, more than one in four male carers in employment would not describe or acknowledge themselves as a carer to others, meaning they may not get the support they need at work (Male carers: Husband, partner, dad, son, carer?) .
Stereotypes around caring can also play a huge role in making it harder to talk about being a male carer. Caring, the care profession and emotional support can often be seen as a ‘women’s role’, or even when someone talks about a carer you often imagine a women instead of man. In reality, the 2011 census found that 42% of carers In the UK are male. The problem with this is not just that it might make male carers harder to recognise or for them to speak out, but also that there is less recognition of different type of support men might need compared to female carers.
A survey by Carers Trust and the Men’s Health Forum found that over half of male carers felts they had different needs to female carers and needed additional support on asking for help and balancing work and caring.
There are many benefits from talking about being a carer both on a practical level and to help with your emotional wellbeing. We look at the sorts of people you could talk to about caring and how that can help and support you as a male carer.
Telling your work
It can be daunting telling your work, you might feel you don’t how to explain your role or you don’t want to make a fuss. If you are having trouble starting that conversation, remember you don’t have to tell work more widely, but it can be useful for at least one person like your line manager so that they can understand your caring role and how this might affect you at work.
Sometimes it can be easier to start the conversation if you know what you could hope to gain or what you are asking for. You have the right to request flexible working after working for a company for 6 months. This could be to work from home, work a different shift pattern or have flexible hours so this might be something you ask of your employer. You can read about all your rights as a carer on the Carers UK website.
Carers UK also have some great tips on how to open up the conversation about flexible working and talking about your caring role.
Finding spaces to talk
If you can no longer talk to the person you care for like you once did, it can make it even more challenging to open up to others. You might feel like male carer Steve: ‘I don’t have proper conversation in my life day to day, and it can be quite lonely.’ Recognising this feeling can be a first step in realising that although your relationship with the person you care for has changed, you might need others in your life so you don’t feel as isolated.
If there is a particular interest or activity that might make it easier to connect with others and make new friends, the Help and Kindness website has an expansive list of what is available in Dorset or contact us for some ideas.
Talking to other men
You might find it easier to talk to other men, here are some organisations that give you spaces to connect with other men.
One option might be to find your nearest Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) which are places to pursue practical interests at leisure. You might be doing woodworking, metalworking, repairing and restoring, electronics, model buildings or even car building in a typical Shed. More than this though, they are about social connections and friendship building and learning skills from others.
You can find your nearest Shed on their website.
Another options could be Men Speak Men’s groups, where men can have a chance to talk beyond the banter about real issues they are facing.They offer different groups from regular check-ins, to a group that runs for a set number of weeks. All of these groups offer online options.
There is also The ManKind Project which offers online groups to connect with other men. You can also contact them through their website to find out more about local groups.
Equally just as important as finding new friends or talking to others is to tell the people close to you about your role as a carer.
Tell the people closest to you
One our Young Carers, Alfie, highlights this as a key piece of advice: “Tell your closest and trusted friends that you are a (young) carer. Explain your role to them so that they understand what you can and can’t do.”
This can make it easier trying to organise keeping in touch with them, because you can explain things that make it easier for you as a carer. If you find it hard to know what you want to say, our pages on whether you are a carer can help you think about how to explain what you do and how it might be affecting you. You can even direct people to our website as a means of them finding out more about your role.
If you want to find out more about male carers, and the source of the statistics and findings used in this blog visit: Male carers: Husband, Partner, Dad, Son, Carer? | Men’s Health Forum (menshealthforum.org.uk)
If you are an unpaid carer and want further support or help with anything mentioned in this blog, you can always phone one of our friendly Carer Advisers on 0800 368 8349 or email us at email@example.com.