EMPWR Mens Mental Health UAE

November was Men’s Mental Health Awareness month.

For many years, mental health has been ignored, which has led to it becoming the most growing pandemic of the decade. To make things even worse, men are showing a dramatic increase in mental health diagnosis; men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

They are also three times more likely to abuse, whether emotionally or physically, and become addicted to drugs and alcohol compared to women. However, even given these statistics, men are less likely to access, or even reach out for, any kind of support for their mental health concerns, only about 36% do seek necessary support.

Men generally shy away from seeking help; however, when it comes to mental health, in most cases, this shyness turns into shame and guilt. Culturally, men across the world have been raised that to feel is a sign of weakness – showing emotions is frowned upon, if not punished, in some families. Hence, repressing feelings without complaining seems to be the only way to go. Even though the above mentioned are compelling reasons for the development of mental health issues, they are not new.

The culture we live in has always planted these expectations onto men; however, the increase in mental health issues in men  seems to be linked to other factors – which are what I would like to discuss: some of the general reasons this increase may be the result of, along with some more tailored, specific reasons regarding men in the UAE.

Times Have Changed

Historically, men have been expected to be the breadwinners of their families and, although in today’s modern world that is no longer the case, there is still an expectation for them to be the backbone of the family. They are expected to be a security blanket, which doesn’t leave room for them to express their emotions when feeling down or overwhelmed by the struggles of their lives. Showing such emotions or “weaknesses” is often perceived as failure to provide a sense of safety for their family members, failure in their role as patriarchs.

Moreover, culturally, men tend to have less of a support structure than women. While Women can find an outlet for their emotions and let-downs with their female friends, who, generally, can provide an empathetic listening ear, that is far from the case with men. Men’s friendships are often different; men report feeling “weak,” “embarrassed,” or “shut down” if they express their emotional struggles with friends. This is not due to lack of empathy, but rather a general lack of comfort when discussing emotional struggles.

When discussing such a frail concept as emotions, men feel as though they are not in their element, hence providing responses that are often perceived as dismissive, which in turn acts as a discouragement for men to talk about their feelings.

man standing beside eagle during daytime
Photo by @traumr

Struggles in the UAE

In the UAE, the struggles tend to increase due to the unique nature of the country. With the majority of the residents being expats, there is the added pressure of having to keep a job. It is not only that the market is competitive, but there is also the fear that losing one’s job might lead to them (and their families) having to return to their countries of origin. This kind of pressure plays a major role in the development of dangerous mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse to name a few.

Additionally, the economic and political situation in most of these expats’ countries of origin tends to be turbulent. Most of the expats come to the UAE seeking a safe haven from said turbulences, for their families. In many cases, they provide financial support for their families back home, thus increasing the pressure of not only having to keep a job, but also to excel in it. The overemphasis on maintaining one’s job often leads to an unbalanced life which highly contributes to mental health concerns


Another reason that plays a key role in mental health wellbeing is formulating meaningful connections. Like all cosmopolitan cities, Dubai, and the UAE, in general, can be very lonely; it’s hard to start new friendships and formulate meaningful connections with others.

This is exacerbated by the transient nature of the city/country, where individuals and families are constantly moving in & out of apartments, hence leading to a greater difficulty in the formulation of relationships that generally anchor most individuals during difficult times.

Therefore, it is essential that we start paying attention to men’s mental health. We need to reach out to the men around us, in the workplace as well as in our families. We need to create an open, compassionate and supportive environment, one that enables men to share their thoughts, struggles, and feelings without feeling as though they are sinning. It’s only fair. 

Make sure to join our conversation around mental health on the EMPWR Facebook Community Group: “Empowering YOU”