The ‘Men’ in Mental Health
Mental health conditions do not discriminate. Much like our physical health, we all have mental health that requires checking in or additional support when something goes wrong. In fact, the World Health Organization (2023) recognizes that mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals in society.
Despite that, there is a large disparity between males and females in addressing mental health and accessing support, with only 28% of males who experienced mental health symptoms for 12 months accessing mental health services compared to 41% of females (National Mental Health Survey, 2007).
This is not because men in Australia experience less mental health symptoms. In reality, men in Australia are faced with serious mental health challenges, with men three times more likely to die by suicide than females (Beyond Blue, 2019).
Assumptions and Barriers of Men’s Mental Health
Men in Australia do talk about mental health and access mental health support. However, there may continue to remain some assumptions and barriers for men in Australia to identify mental health challenges and access support.
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health disorders in Australia. Symptoms of these disorders are explained here that give rise to the diagnoses. It is an assumption that everyone experiences these disorders the same. How these symptoms are expressed differently between males and females may be a barrier for males to correctly identify their experiences as mental health symptoms.
Depression in males may not look like what we commonly assume depression looks like, such as low mood and feeling lethargic. More commonly for males it can look like increased irritability or anger, increased mood swings, being more busy to distract from changes in mood and thoughts, or changes in typical behaviour such as drinking more or other substance use.
Similarly, anxiety in males may not only look like over-worrying or over-thinking. It can also look like being more avoidant, such as cancelling plans or increased substance use. Or, engaging in more risky behaviours, like gambling or getting into fights with others.
Taking into context our society and Australian cultural norms that focus on drinking, going out on weekends, and staying busy with work or life in general, it makes sense that depression and anxiety can manifest to look like these things when mental health declines.
Sometimes changes in mood and behaviours may be due to an unrecognised traumatic event . Outdated cultural norms in Australia may be responsible for this. Ideas such as, “Men should be tough”, can minimise the significance of events. This can lead to a downplaying of a mental health disorder that requires treatment to get better.
Gender does not make a difference in how important our mental health is to our overall wellbeing. Times have changed, but we need to continue to recognize the importance of men’s mental health. Maybe it is time for, “out with the old” stereotypical cultural expectations of men in Australia, and time to continue to bring in more meaningful conversations of men in mental health! If you would like to explore your mental health more, come see our psychologists at the Centre for Clinical Psychology. We know it can be hard to talk, and we have helped others before you with this call us on 03 9077 0122 or book online here.
Australian Government, Department of Health (2021). National Men’s Health Policy. https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/05/national-men-s-health-policy-2010-supporting-document-healthy-minds.pdf
Beyond Blue, (2019). Men. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men
World Health Organization (2023). Mental Health. https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_2