Men's Health Week: Mental Health

Thursday 18 June 2020

Men's Health Week 2020: Speaking Up About Mental Health

Dr Frances Dark, PA Hospital Psychiatrist

Although men are being encouraged to speak up about their mental health struggles, statistics show there is still more work to be done to get men to seek help when they are struggling.

According to PA Hospital Psychiatrist Dr Frances Dark (right), though both sexes struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, men do tend to be slow to access professional help.

"Australian research gives support for the stereotype that men don't talk about their feelings. Population surveys have found the top three ways men cope with stress were nonverbal; healthy eating (54.2%), keeping busy (50.1%), exercise (44.9%) - talking to people close to them or who they trusted was ranked at 11 in a list of coping strategies," she said.
"There are also gender differences in risk factors for mental wellbeing with reports of one in four men having no strong social connections.
"The patterns of mental illness do show variations based on gender across the lifespan, depression is more common in women, and the lifetime prevalence of alcohol dependence is higher in men.
"There can also be a gender bias in diagnosis and treatment, for example, depression is more likely to be diagnosed in women than men despite both sexes having similar ratings on standardised measures."Dr Frances Dark

Life stage can be a key factor impacting mental health, and it should be a reminder for us to check on the wellbeing of the men in our lives, with different challenges facing men at various developmental periods such as adolescence, early adulthood, middle age and retirement.

"Sometimes men that have ignored their mental health, and have been hard workers, have actually had a lot of dependency needs that are being met by being seen as being a great worker," Dr Dark said.
"Then suddenly they're made redundant, perhaps because of COVID-19, and they start presenting with problems such as physical health complaints that may represent underlying depression.
"The changes associated with ageing involve coming to terms with work and family roles that can be core to a person's self-esteem. If you have multiple losses - for example loss of a job and loss of a relationship - then there can be increased suicide risk. Even life changes that are planned for, such as retirement, can be a major period of adjustment for men.
"There are a number of organisations and public health campaigns encouraging men to seek help if they have concerns about their mental health and wellbeing.
"It's important that we continue to normalise males accessing mental health services. Initial advice can be accessed confidentially via telephone services such as Mensline," Dr Dark said.

While encouraged by growing recognition among men's mental health movements to eradicate the stigma around seeking help - whenever mental health struggles crop up, like all health professional's, Dr Dark recommends they speak to their GP as the first port of call.

"A trusted GP can assist with mental health and wellbeing but also assist when symptoms persist and advise about further professional help. The GP's can assist in accessing government-funded programs to reduce any financial barrier to psychology services."

If you need help call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 Mensline on 1300 78 99 78 or head to https://www.beyondblue.org.au/