This week is Men’s Mental Health week, and while we’re making great strides at smashing the stigma when it comes to men and mental health, men are still experiencing mental health conditions such as depression and substance use disorders at alarming rates, and dying by suicide at a rate three times greater than females.
We had a chat to Indigo Psychologist, Patrick Dixon, for this week’s Get Psych’d ep about some great ways to get wise about men’s mental health and step up as mates and supports when our guy-friends really need it.
Below are 5 ways you can do your bit to support the guys in your life.
1. Watch for warning signs
Keep an eye out for an increase in unhealthy or risky behaviours, such as drinking, drug-taking, gambling and unsafe sex. And watch out for other behaviour changes such as a withdrawal from friends, family and activities, loss of enthusiasm, change in diet and routine, and a neglect of physical health. Even things like over-working and a ramp up of seemingly-healthy behaviours, such as excessive exercising, might be signals that something’s up. These are all common ways of disconnecting from oneself and others, and avoiding to confront some of the deeper stuff that might be going on.
2. Don’t shy away from bringing up tough stuff
Although still a significant factor in high suicide rates, depression is not the only thing that prompt men to take their life. Male suicides are more commonly linked to a range of distressing life events such as break ups, financial problems, relationship issues, grief & loss, unemployment, family conflict and legal matters. While these things might be awkward or uncomfortable to bring up in conversation, if you know a mate is going through something challenging, open up the space for him to talk about it. If he’s not comfortable opening up, let him know you’re there for him and free to chat whenever he’s ready.
3. Support healthy coping strategies
Men that have mental health issues have a range of healthy behaviours to help them take care of themselves. These include healthy eating, exercise, helping others, spending time with supportive friends and pets. If you want to be there for a mate, but feel like a one-on-one interrogation is a bit intense, organise to do something together, like play sport, go for a bush-walk, or see a live band (fingers crossed thats not too long away post-COVID).
4. Look beyond lazy gender stereotypes
It’s easy to fall into the lazy habit of thinking all men “don’t know how to talk about their feelings” or “bottle up their emotions” and experience some types of mental health conditions and not others. Men still experience conditions such as post-natal depression, eating disorders, and suffer from abuse within relationships. It’s important to acknowledge your male friends as individuals, and not prescribe strict gendered expectations on their experience/behaviour.
5. Let them know that help is available
It’s true that sometimes not everyone will be comfortable talking about certain things, in which case, the best you can do is let them know you are there to reach out to, and that there is always support available.
We’ve got a bunch of awesome practitioners at Indigo, who they can book in with. And with a Mental Health Care Plan, they can save a chunk of money on session fees. There are also other great online and free resources below:
Men’s Line Aus Forum: http://forum.mensline.org.au/Default.aspx
Men’s Helpline: https://mensline.org.au/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIn6jb_eaH6gIVhH0rCh33iACxEAAYAiAAEgKHYfD_BwE
Mind Quiz on Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men/mind-quiz