MEN'tal Health

This morning I was linked an absolutely fantastic article on why men don't open up.

Male mental health has been a hot topic for sometime, many wondering why it can be so hard for men in particular to open up about their mental health.

84 men per week die by suicide
75% of all suicides are male
25% of men live with undiagnosed mental illness
Men are less likely to seek help

Why?

This article by the The Sydney Morning Herald shows a fantastic Study conducted by 'Movember.'
Hats off to these guys, they do an incredible job raising awareness! Read the article here

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"Men the world over are grappling with constant expectations to talk more, open up, and show vulnerability. But all this rhetoric encouraging conversation has eclipsed a crucial question: are we ready to listen?

For generations, men’s emotions have been repressed to the detriment of their health and the wellbeing of all around them. Men continue to make up three quarters of those that suicide amounting to the staggering global statistic of a man a minute dying by their own hand

Mental health advocates the world over have called for an overhaul of men’s socially prescribed behaviours and the phrase “boys will be boys” has gained toxic infamy. In response, many men are attempting to navigate the growing pains of this long overdue shift in today’s gender politics.

 

No longer is masculinity defined by a silent stoicism and breadwinner status solely sufficient. Emotional awareness and an openness to vulnerability have now been added to the masculine melting pot. To "man up" has taken on a whole new complex meaning, and it’s about time.

Yet, it seems the pace at which we are requesting men adapt is faster than we as a society can muster up the resources to respond to the magnitude of need.

Research released this week by Movember surveyed 4000 men globally and showed that, while three quarters of men have at least one person they can talk to when in need, two in five (41 per cent) have regretted opening up to someone about their mental health.

The pace at which we are requesting men adapt is faster than we as a society can muster up the resources to respond to the magnitude of need.

These men reflected on how opening up resulted in them feeling like they weren’t taken seriously, had lost respect or were made to feel embarrassed or weak for doing so. Even more worryingly, over half of these men (53 per cent) said that this negative experience would prevent them from sharing again. These men did everything that the mental health community asked of them. It is now up to us to do right by these men and teach those on the other end of the conversation, whether it be their doctor, psychologist, spouse or a colleague, how to give these men what they need.

Male distress continues to go undetected or misdiagnosed as anger or behavioural issues and men continue to take their own lives “out of the blue” despite the fact that “everything seemed okay yesterday”.

Picture a man drinking excessively, gambling or getting violent on the footy field. Do you spot these as signs of distress? Do you feel empathy for him? Chances of this are slim, because not only are these the ways men have been socialised over generations to deal with their emotions, but everyone else has accepted this as the norm.

It’s completely understandable that responding to this behaviour among men is uncomfortable. We can distance ourselves, when in fact what these men are often seeking is connection and an open-ear. For this reason, it is essential that when men do “talk” in a way that demonstrates more emotional vulnerability and demands compassion, we need to recognise that this is overcoming generations of male socialisation. Decades of research have been developed around the idea that it is literally painful for some men to ask for help in a way that is completely foreign to them.

Help-seeking behaviour among men is now encouraged with wild abandon, but now the help-providing behaviour of everyone else needs to step up.

 

If we continue to miss the mark in our attempts to help men, they will continue to feel that these conversations, mental health campaigns and services are designed for them but not with them. In our survey, a quarter of men cited the most common barrier preventing them from seeking help was the feeling their mental health wasn’t bad enough to need to seek formal help. We need to open up, seek out and reward these conversations, not shut them down. Existing findings support that a positive experience seeking help will inspire belief in men that the effort or discomfort in opening up was worth it, and will make them more likely to do it again.

If we demand more of men, we have to bear some of the responsibility and adapt our workplaces, sporting codes and mental health system to ensure we can provide the conditions to allow them to truly flourish. To do this, we have to go to where men are.

A number of programs funded by Movember are on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with men, upskilling them in how to have meaningful conversations with each other at work, on the footy field and even in the therapy room itself with clinicians that can understand, respond and engage them in the treatment they want, not just what we think they need.

The dam of male emotion is finally about to break. For men to be kinder to themselves (and by extension their family, friends and communities), we need to invest in offering them the right conditions to do this. The faster we can get it right, the better."

Dr Zac Seidler is the director of health professional training at Movember.