In light of Men’s Health Week here in Australia, I feel compelled to talk about how isolating it sometimes feel for men in their own mental health journey. Health, after all, also extends to psychological and mental health. Having several male friends that I cherish, they have often talked about how difficult it can be to open up, talk, let alone receive help.
Recently, I had dinner with one of my close friends, A (21 years old), thinking it was just a regular catch-up dinner. A is a dear friend in our social circle, always keen to help others around him, and was managing quite well by the looks of it. We’d catch up every so often, whenever we had time. Half-way through his sticky date pudding, he went silent and told me about the hard period he had been going through in previous months. I had no clue he had been facing this much pressure. When I questioned him why he hadn’t reached out to the supports he had in his life, he replied saying that he “didn’t want to burden others around him”. I told him that this was simply not true, and that we would love to help. At the end of dinner, he felt relieved, but still unsure if he would not be inconveniencing others.
This is just ONE example out of many barriers to men accessing the help they need. Social stigma, cost, and wait times are some other examples of said barrier. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, “Up to 25% [of men] experienced a diagnosed mental health disorder in their lifetime, and 15% experienced a disorder in any 12-month period. However, only a quarter of men said they would seek help from a mental health professional if they were experiencing personal or emotional problems.”
Fear, feelings of isolation, unworthiness, and other emotions that underlie loneliness plague our loved ones. This is especially prevalent during COVID, the effects of which we have seen and will be facing for an extended period of time. In Australia, men accounted for 2,384 of the 3,139 suicides in 2020 (Australian Bureau of Statistics). That makes up for 75.9%, or 6 male deaths a day due to suicide.
Some things to help the men around us feel supported include:
- Checking up on them every so often and ask how they are doing
- Offer them our help so that they know they have someone they can talk to
- Being patient and understand that it may not be a straightforward process
- Listening to them and validating their emotions if they do decide to talk
- Understanding that mental health struggles may appear different from person to person
- Gently refer them to a mental health professional
These strategies may not apply to all men, and it may not be successful the first time you employ them. The key is to always keep the communication open and let them know that help is available. The men in your life might not currently need your help, but it will definitely make it a safe space for them to reach out in the future. You never know, a simple “hey, how are you?” might just be the small gesture of support that they need.
To best support others around us, we need to pour from a full cup and not an empty cup. We can “fill our own cup” by:
- Self-educating around mental health and various conditions
- Understand that it can be difficult to see our loved ones struggling
- Check up on ourselves
- Have someone to turn to when things get hard
If you or anyone you know is struggling, refer to these resources for support:
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Lifeline – 13 11 44
MensLine – 1300 78 99 78
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021). Causes of Death, Australia. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release#intentional-self-harm-deaths-suicide-in-australia
Janice Halim – Provisional Psychologist, BA (psychology), GDip (Professional Psychology)