“I started going to an anxiety support group last year. It was really worth the effort.”
Mental health issues are both universal and individual. Anyone can experience them – in varying degrees – yet for each of us, they are personal and unique. For example: statistically, women experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than men. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to see their reactions as depression, and are more likely to use alcohol to try to deal with it. Men are also less likely to reach out for help when they need it.
Men can have many roles and responsibilities: caring for their home and family, earning a living, building a career, being a good friend, and contributing to their community. These things can be rewarding, but they can also bring stress. New and expectant dads may face extra challenges as they come to terms with new responsibilities and fitting more into their days.
Men can be reluctant to seek help when they feel overwhelmed. As a result, they may live with untreated and often undiagnosed mental health conditions that impact the quality of their life.
When it comes to your own mental health, doing what you can to maintain your wellbeing is key. Finding the time to do regular physical activity, keeping up your social life, and making healthy lifestyle choices are a few examples. If you are feeling burdened, there's lots you can do to help yourself through a rough patch. There are also times when talking about your troubles with someone else can be the extra bit of help you need.
A closer look
Talking about things can be a positive first step
These are stressful times, and some of the things that can weigh heavily on men include work and finances, unemployment, relationships problems, illness, and drug and alcohol use. These can be difficult problems to solve, so it can be helpful to talk with someone about how they are impacting your life. You can talk with someone you know and trust, connect online, on the telephone, or in person with a mental health professional. (Source)
Physical activity helps to protect mental health
One of the best things you can do to look after your mental health is regular physical activity - especially when it’s something you enjoy. Research shows that all kinds of activities - like walking the dog, going for a run or a ride, gardening, or even washing the car will give you health benefits. Even better - plan some kind of physical activity into each day. It will make you feel good, and help you better cope with life’s ups and downs. (Source 1) (Source 2)
Good relationships lead to better mental health
Research shows that men who have good relationships benefit from better physical and mental health. It is also true that mental health issues can cause changes in behaviour that can harm relationships, which in turn can further damage mental health. Maintaining and building respectful and caring relationships with family and friends is both protective and healing. You can read more about healthy relationships on our partners, friends, and family pages. (Source)
Noticing and addressing problems early is crucial
In Australia, like the rest of the western world, men die by suicide at a higher rate than women. In 2016, three-quarters of suicides were men, with a large number of these occurring in the 40 to 54-year age group. Knowing how to recognise the signs and treating the symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions can help protect men from the risk of suicide. (Source)
Men may turn to substance abuse
In dealing with their problems, men are more prone to turn to alcohol and drugs than women. Substance abuse can then make existing problems worse, which may lead to a downward spiral. For men going through a tough patch, talking about their problems and getting some support may help reduce dependance on alcohol and drugs. (Source)
Improving your mental health and wellbeing
If you are going through stressful times, here are some things that could help.
Make a plan of action. Start by thinking about the things that are happening in your life - both the positives and the negatives. When you’ve looked at the positives, try to identify the problems and consider how you would like them fixed. Be prepared to try a few things - but it’s better to be working at a problem than letting it get the better of you.
If you’re having trouble working something out, talk to someone about it - like a friend, a partner, or a family member. It will help you to see things more clearly and you might get some ideas of what to do next. Stressful times can be emotional, so keep an eye on how you’re interacting with the other people in your life.
Don’t waste time if you’re out of ideas - professional help is always available. Use the telephone or go online to connect with any of the services listed below, and let them help you get things sorted.
Helping a man through stressful times
Asking a man if they are ‘okay’ may not always start a valuable conversation – but that’s no reason not to do it. They may be happy and relieved to talk. If not, you may need to do the talking. Explain your observations and concerns without being judgemental – and let them know you are there to help. It can be useful to talk about a specific event, rather than things in general. Acknowledge the challenges they face and draw their attention to their strengths and achievements. You might offer some practical help if they want it.
Sharing your concerns with someone else they trust, like a good friend, might also be worthwhile. It can be reassuring for you to get another perspective, and the other person may be in a better position to start a productive conversation.
In helping a man with a mental health condition, it is important to look after yourself as well. You can find more information about that on our Support for carers page.
Something that helped me a lot was talking to one of my dad’s friends who has suffered depression all his life. His symptoms were exactly the same as mine. He was the one who told me not to fight the depression, and just to ride it out.
There was a great feeling of shame and stigma when I needed to go into hospital because the depression was so bad. It wasn’t something that family members were prepared to talk about. This wasn’t cruelty on their part, it was just a matter of deep shame, like having a black sheep in the family.
Some days, my wife would go to work and I would be sitting at home overwhelmed by thoughts of suicide, which terrified me. That's when I knew I needed to get help.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).