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Did you know that Men's Mental Health is now being dubbed as a "Silent Crisis"? [1]

When it comes to health, it's initially thought that we are referring to physical health. However, men are more likely to experience mental health issues at some stages in their lives than physical illness.

We know that men are experiencing mental health issues, as numerous studies are supporting that. However, each year the number is growing at a surprising rate. In Australia alone, men make up 7 out of every nine suicides every single day. 

Sadly, 72% of men will not seek help from anyone for mental health concerns. According to the latest Ten to Men: the Australian Longitudinal Study of Male Health report released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), mental ill-health remains high among Australian men.

Up to 25% experienced a diagnosed mental health disorder in their lifetime, and 15% experienced a disorder in any 12 months. However, only a quarter of men said they would seek help from a mental health professional if they were experiencing personal or emotional problems. 

And as COVID-19 continues to impact the way we live, work, and socialise, AIFS Director Anne Hollonds said it was more important than ever for Australian men to reach out and seek support when they needed it. [2]

This article will talk about the three reasons why Men's Health is a silent crisis. And how we can turn those silent statistics around. 

1. Men ask for help differently

Men express their mental health problems differently. These problems are often covered up by suspicious actions like aggression, alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, any addiction, or just by being out of touch. 

The question now is how can you tell if your male colleague is experiencing mental health issues.  First, figure out the root cause. In a nutshell, here are the common mental health issues for men. [3]

  1. relationship problems, separation and divorce

  2. financial stress

  3. work-related pressures

  4. unemployment or retirement

  5. physical illness

  6. social isolation

  7. partner's pregnancy and the birth of a baby

  8. drug and alcohol use

It would help if you also considered that many men resist talking or seeking someone professionally about their concern. This is for a few reasons – such as

  • They are embarrassed that they should be able to sort it out themselves.

  • They feel a sense of failure.

  • They feel alone in it all and that they are the only ones going through it.

  • They thought that the problem would define them.

  • They are thinking of what others will think of them. [4]

But there's good news! According to Men's Line Australia, more research and evidence show support programs can make a huge difference to men if they are based around their specific needs, preferences and strengths.

1. There are new ways to provide support

Gone were the days when the only way to get help is being 'on the couch'. Now, other means of consultations are available, like phone counselling services, online and digital services. This has been helping men who don't like face-to-face options and men in rural or remote areas.

2. Change the message

MensLine Australia uses a style that communicates the goals and solutions. Instead of referring as "suffering from mental health issues", it is called "mental fitness". This gave a perception that getting help shows strength, taking control and getting things back on track.

3. Support specifically for men

Men and women have different ways to communicate. As an example, men prefer shoulder to shoulder style. This style is characterised by minimised eye contact - think of guys discussing things while watching sport, gaming or fishing.

4. Changing the environment

Men are more likely to open up in a friendly or familiar environment, like in a sporting or outdoors location. [5]

2. There are lots of coping strategies for men that don't involve talking 

When one talks about mental health coping strategies, the initial step that they suggest is to talk about it. However, most men prefer to stay quiet and refuse talking therapies. The Mental Health Services report proves this because only 36.2% of men utilise Medicare-subsidised mental health services in Australia. [6]

But you'll be surprised to know that there are positive strategies men regularly use to prevent and manage their mental health issues.

According to a study published in 2018, here are the 10 commonly used coping strategies by men: [7]

  1. Eating healthily (54.2% do this regularly)

  2. Keep busy (50.1%)

  3. Exercise (44.9%)

  4. Use humour to reframe my thoughts/feelings (41.1%)

  5. Do something to help another person (35.7%)

  6. Spend time with a pet (34.8%)

  7. Accept my sad feelings/'this will pass too' (32.7%)

  8. Achieve something (big or small) (31%)

  9. Hang out with people who are positive (30.8 %)

  10. Distract myself from negative thoughts/feelings (30.5%)

Please note that these are COPING strategies that help to ease symptoms. It does not remove the root problem.

3. Awareness strategies are not targeted well at men

It has been said that the mental health services in Australia have been making it difficult for Australian men (and women) to get the appropriate help based on their needs, preferences and strengths. 

As Rosemary Calder AM, Director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration, has argued: "Everyone knows that there are differences between women and men. The marketing and retailing industries spend many millions of dollars on market research to understand the needs and preferences of men and women so that they can gender-target their messages to both adults and children. They wouldn't do it if the evidence told them that gender-blind strategies would work just as well.

Despite all of this evidence about the importance of gender, mental health policy in Australia is gender-blind. If gender matters to marketers, helping them to be more effective and profitable, surely it should also matter to governments who have a responsibility for the policies which support the health and wellbeing of the population?"

A gender-inclusive mental health system would work to respond to the different needs of men and women and ensure an equitable balance of male-friendly and female-friendly approaches. [8]

Now is the time to talk about this silent crisis! Together, we can make a difference, one effort at a time. 

There are many strategies out there, and it can be overwhelming to know what one to do, will it work, and what they want.

Carrying out a psychosocial assessment with accompanied focus groups allows you to reduce the risk of exposure and enhance workplace well-being by getting to know what your team needs and knowing the right strategy to support them. There is no one size fit.

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