Breaking down barriers in men’s mental health
Kieran Kennedy, Psychiatry Registrar and mental health advocate at The Alfred, speaks openly about why we should be talking more about men’s mental health.
In Australia, there are around nine suicides on average every day. Rates of suicide for men are currently three times that of women.
This week (15 June to 21 June) is Men’s Health Week. Men’s mental health is deeply rooted and complex, and it’s something that Kieran believes needs more recognition and attention.
“There’s a lot of stigma for mental health in general, but especially for men,” Kieran said.
Part of the complexity with men’s mental health is the masculine stereotyping associated with it.
“There are messages that men and boys grow up learning about what it’s like to ‘be a man’, and all of the traditional messaging associated with that,” he said.
“Things such as never appearing as ‘weak’, never talking about your feelings, and the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff.”
As far as the facts go, men who have a mental illness are significantly less likely to see a doctor about it, or access mental health services.
Therefore, men are more likely to fall into often other ways of dealing with their mental health struggles such as use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.
In recent years, Kieran says health experts have come to realise that looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
“Research shows men in general are better at looking after and thinking about their physical health compared to the mental side of things,” he said.
Kieran wants men who are struggling to know that they’re not fighting this alone.
“This means nothing about you, and it means zero about your masculinity and you as a man,” he said.
“It’s never a weakness being open and getting help for your mental health.”
There are many ways to encourage men struggling with their mental health to reach out and seek help.
Beyond Blue have initiated ‘chat laps’, where you take your mate on a drive and have a chat.
The reason for this is because studies show men often prefer to talk side-by-side rather than face-to-face, which makes a car trip (as example) the perfect environment to start an open and honest conversation without the intimidation.
Kieran also said making an appointment to see your GP is a great place to start, or checking out the Men’s Health Foundation of Australia for resources and information.
If you’re experiencing mental illness, we encourage you to reach out to the following organisations:
If you’re in a life threatening situation, call Triple Zero (000).