Each year approximately 1 in 5 Australians experience mental illness. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007), the most common forms of mental illness in Australia were anxiety disorders (14.4%), followed by affective (mood) disorders, which includes depression (6.2%), and substance use disorders (5.1%), of which 4.3% were alcohol related.
Only 1 in 3 people with mental illness are likely to access support, with 1% being admitted to hospital. Women are more likely to use mental health services than men. However, men are twice as likely to experience issues related to substance abuse.
In 2014, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 – 44 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). Approximately 7 people attempt suicide per day, 75% are men.
With 20% of us experiencing hardship at any given time, it’s sad to think that most do not access support or feel they can ask for help. Australian culture stereotypes the ‘Aussie man’ as the rock of the family, able to protect and provide support in times of difficulty. This silences a significant portion of men who would benefit from support, as they fear judgement for reaching out. This has a large influence over the staggering statistics related to substance abuse and suicide rates in men, as coping mechanisms are not taught in effective ways.
So what can we do to help?
Men’s issues are real and becoming more recognised and accepted. Everyone is able to take part in increasing acceptance for mental health issues through actively engaging in ‘stigma reduction’. This means we can make a conscious decision to make ourselves aware of situations that may isolate men. For example, you may hear someone open up about a personal issue and be told to “harden up” or “rub some beer and concrete on it”. While this response is often associated with a sense of mateship, occasionally it will make a person feel as if no one cares about supporting them through a difficult time.
Recently we have seen various community initiatives that raise awareness and lift the stigma attached to mental illness. Each year the second week of September is recognised as R U Ok day/week. This event encourages open communication and has been generally well received.
‘Movember’ is another event which receives positive engagement on an annual basis. This community-based initiative has played a large role in raising awareness for both prostate cancer and men’s mental health.
There are a range of charity organisations who focus their services on providing support for men with mental health issues. Beyondblue provides personalised assistance tailored specifically to men going through a difficult time. Most recently the launch of ‘Dadvice’ provides personal accounts, experiences and advice from new dads. Mantherapy.org relaunched in June 2015 to incorporate the fictional character ‘Davo,’ a tradesman who provides specialised intervention and advice to the typical blue collar worker.
If you are personally affected by something and feel unable to manage throughout day-to-day activities, then follow these steps:
- Know the signs/triggers
- Know the range of treatment options and support available
- Develop an action plan
Your GP can offer assistance if you don’t know where to start.
Everyone is different, so help is available to assist in deciding what will work best for you.
Whatever form this takes is entirely your decision, here are some resources to get you started:
- GP Mental health plan – Your doctor can link you in with a bulk billing clinical psychologist for 10 sessions a year. Most anxiety and depression experiences can be assisted through a process called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which aims to change the brains automatic responses to more positive ones.
- Lifeline (for a personal crisis) – 13 11 14
- Suicide call back service (if you’re thinking about suicide) – 1300 659 467
- Mensline Australia – 1300 78 99 78
- The shed online; an online support group for men
- Dads in Distress; online support for separated fathers
- SANE Australia; Support for people living with mental illness – 1800 18 7263.
- Mind Health Connect; online Domestic Violence against men support
- 1800 Respect; DV counselling for men – 1800 737 732
- QLife; Support for same sex couples – 1800 184 527
- Beyondblue – 24/7 phone support– 1300 22 4636
- Online suicide safety planning,
- Depression/anxiety checklist, Grief/loss