Talking about men’s mental health
There are many factors why men’s mental health issues may go unrecognised for a long time. Some of these include:
- Social norms and expectations pressure men to be strong, stoic and independent.
- Upbringing and role models that teach men to cope with problems by themselves or use unhealthy coping behaviours such as drugs or alcohol to get by.
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed to seek out help for mental health issues.
- Lack of awareness about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in men.
We hear common phrases like ‘chin up’, ‘pull your socks up’, and the like, and we’ve been taught that many ‘head issues’ are nothing to worry about and should be dismissed. There is growing recognition that mental health concerns are serious issues, and the culture of dismissal is a dangerous approach. However, many men are still unaware of some of the most common indicators that there’s a problem that should be dealt with before it grows into something bigger. So how can you tell if you have an issue that you should consider seeking help with?
Some common men’s mental health issues
Many of us have been there, but few recognise just how serious loneliness and social isolation can be. In its more severe forms, loneliness and social isolation can contribute to poorer physical and mental health.
Loneliness is fairly common, with a study by Swinburne University reporting that 1 in 2 Australians felt more lonely since COVID-19. And those who reported feeling more lonely because of COVID-19 also reported more mental health concerns.
So, what is the difference between loneliness and social isolation? Loneliness is chiefly a feeling of sadness about being alone that can also happen when you’re surrounded by people – it is a feeling of a lack of connection to the world around you. You may feel like you have no meaningful relationships or like you don’t belong and no one understands you. You can read more about the signs of loneliness at The Conversation.
Social isolation, on the other hand, refers to a lack of social contact with others. This can be due to physical barriers, geographic distance, personal choice, or external circumstances. For example, someone who lives alone and has limited access to transportation may experience social isolation. It’s worth noting that some people may choose to be socially isolated, and not all individuals who are socially isolated feel lonely.
If someone is experiencing loneliness, they can start to take proactive steps such as reaching out to and reconnecting with people they know, joining a sports club or volunteer group, getting involved in community activities, joining a Men’s Shed, or caring for a pet.
Stress is a feeling of being under pressure and overwhelmed. Stress is experienced when there is an imbalance between what’s being asked of us and our ability to deliver or cope with the demands. This causes discomfort and distress, which can lead to other men’s mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Although most commonly associated with working life, stress can be triggered by any number of circumstances, including relationship problems, social situations, and financial worries.
Stress can be a good thing in manageable doses, as it can play a key role in driving us to achieve our goals. Problems arise when someone feels unable to meet expectations, and their coping abilities to deal with the pressure are challenged. Some men may be more prone to bottling up their emotions or engaging in risky behaviours (e.g. substance abuse) to cope with the stress, which can lead to further mental health issues.
If men are aware of their stress levels, they can start to take steps to manage it in a healthy way. This can include exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and spending time with friends and family. Seeking support from a mental health professional can also benefit anyone experiencing chronic stress or related mental health concerns.
You can find out more about stress and ways to manage it here:
Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities. Depression can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. Around 10% of men will experience depression in their lifetime. Depression can range from mild to severe and can last for a long time, sometimes weeks, months, or years. These feelings can interfere with daily life and overall mental health and wellbeing.
There is help available for anyone with depression. If you have been feeling depressed for more than two weeks or are worried you may be depressed, seek help as early as possible. You can contact your GP or call MensLine on 1300 78 99 78.
You can find out more about depression here:
Anxiety is one of the most common men’s mental health issues in Australia, with one in five men experiencing it at some stage in their lives.
Anxiety is a consistent state of extreme worry or fear about perceived threats that is usually out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Anxiety is ongoing and can happen without any particular reason or cause. Someone with anxiety may avoid certain situations, have difficulty concentrating, experience physical symptoms like sweating or headaches, feel more agitated, or have trouble sleeping.
Although many men may dismiss anxiety as just being worried or nervous, it is a serious condition and can be a debilitating experience that gets in the way of daily life. Anxiety can have a major impact on both mental and physical health.
If you’re not feeling like yourself, reach out to your GP or call MensLine on 1300 78 99 78.
You can find out more about anxiety here:
The good news about men’s mental health
Most common men’s mental health issues can be successfully treated, and there’s heaps of great information out there about different strategies and techniques that can help. Everyone struggles at times – the key is to reach out for help as early as possible to increase the chances of a faster recovery. It often helps to have a chat with a mate or a family member, but there’s also the option to speak with a health professional if you think you need more specific help. Self-care and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and healthy eating, can also help improve mental health.
Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength. If you or someone you know is facing a mental health issue, there is support available.
Get in touch
MensLine Australia has a team of qualified counsellors who are experienced in dealing with men’s mental health issues. Our service is free and available 24/7 from anywhere in Australia – all you need is a phone or a computer.
If you need someone to talk to, MensLine Australia professional counsellors are here to provide information and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Call us on 1300 78 99 78 or access online counselling.
 Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/1-facts_figures.pdf
 Better Health Channel https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anxiety-and-depression-in-men