Social and Emotional Isolation | Self-reliance | Mental Health Awareness | Seeking Help
Men are well known for keeping things bottled up. They have been taught to be stoic, “be a man”, conform to this ‘man-code’ of behaviour that says you must fix everything on your own. 2 Self-reliance can be isolating and at times not helpful. Self-reliance and creating emotional isolation can reduce the likelihood of a man talking to mates or loved ones about things that are troubling. This can contribute to thoughts and behaviours that negatively impact upon mental health. When you’re suffering from the effects of depression or anxiety finding a voice to share the burden and reduce the isolation can be helpful.
Emotions can be very tricky to label and process alone. It is common that I see both children and adults having to learn to label emotions before they are aware of how to deal with them. Psychological work can be hard at the best of times let alone on your own.
Seeking support from someone trained in this area can assist with areas we aren’t even sure were deficits. We go to a music teacher if we want to learn music. We go to a psychologist to assist with our feelings, behaviours and thoughts to navigate life.
Some men struggle to express when they are sad, uncomfortable, deprived, or feeling down. To conquer the crisis that is men’s mental health, we need to be encouraging men to express their emotions, and create a space where men can see that it is acceptable and feel comfortable to do so. “Sadness can be anger turned inward”, so if men don’t express themselves in a healthy way then those negative feelings can turn inward 7, potentially increasing risks of psychological damage to self and others.
An estimated 72% of Australian males don’t seek help for mental disorders 3.
An estimated 72% of Australian males don’t seek help for mental disorders. It is widely recognised that men often find it difficult to maintain social connections throughout their middle years. There is an expectation that men are dissatisfied with their social lives at some point in their adult life, and one quarter of men describe themselves as having no one outside their immediate family whom they can rely on. One in three men are not satisfied with the quality of their relationships, typically because they do not feel they are emotionally connected or supported 3. My thesis explored depression and cardiovascular disease. The literature indicates that those with depression are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. So improving your mental health may also be good for your physical health.There is strong and consistent evidence of an independent causal association between depression and social isolation and lack of quality social support 8.
One in two Australian men have had a mental health problem at some point in their lives and three out of every four suicides are men 2. In fact, the number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll 2. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), around 1.5 million Australian men aged 18 years and over reported themselves as having a mental condition in 2014-15. The ABS General Manager of Population and Social Statistics, Dr Paul Jelfs, has said that the most common mental conditions for Australian men are anxiety-related conditions and depression 1.
Sometimes people do not have the awareness to find support and instead tend to bear the misery and the shame of their situation with a stoic, masculine pride. Many men want greater openness with their mates and loved ones but don’t have the tools to initiate these conversations, or know how to respond if a friend happens to open up 3.
With depression, anxiety and suicide creating a mental health crisis in Australia, and suicide being the leading cause of death for men, now is the time for men to utilise resources. Men who are struggling with their relationships, their family, their job or general health, now is the time to reach out to a loved one or a support service, including psychologists. “It might be tough, but it also might be the best thing you can do.” 5 Let’s challenge the taboos around male mental health and the way these are shaped by expectations associated with masculinity!
Talk. Ask. Listen. Encourage action. Check in.6
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Men's mental health: let's talk about it. Retrieved 31 May 2018, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/69778A66901ECBA5CA258067000CC719?OpenDocument
- beyondblue (2018) Men. Retrieved 31 May 2018, from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men
- beyondblue (2014) Men’s Social Connectedness Retrieved 31 May 2018, from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bw0276-mens-social-connectedness-final.pdf?sfvrsn=4
- Black Dog Institute (2014) Facts & figures about mental health. Retrieved 31 May 2018, from https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/facts_figures.pdf?sfvrsn=8
- Lifeline (2017) 'Our Toughest Challenge Yet': Lifeline campaign tackles male suicide. Retrieved 31 May 2018, from https://www.lifeline.org.au/about-lifeline/media-centre/media-releases/2017-articles-1/our-toughest-challenge-yet-lifeline-campaign-tackles-male-suicide
- Movember Foundation (2018) Men's Health - Mental health and suicide prevention. Retrieved 31 May 2018, from https://au.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health
- The Melbourne Newsroom (2016) Man Up: What makes blokes seek help? The results may surprise you... Retrieved 31 May 2018, from http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/man-what-makes-blokes-seek-help-results-may-surprise-you
- Bunker, S., et al. (2003). “Stress” and coronary heart disease psychosocial risk factors. Medical Journal of Australia. 178 (6) 272.276.