Australia men’s mental health

On this page, you can find information on Men’s Mental health.

PLEASE NOTE:

If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help, also if you’re showing signs and/or symptoms of anything out of the ordinary, seek professional help from a medical team as soon as possible.

 

Where to get help

If you are interested in seeking some advice about your mental health, a good first step may be to see your doctor, a psychologist, or a counselor. There are also many excellent organizations you can contact for help.

If you are having a personal crisis:

If you want general mental health support and information:

  • Head to Health – a guide to digital mental health services from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations
  • MensLine Australia (online counseling and forum for men) – call 1300 78 99 78
  • Dads In Distress (peer support for separated dads) – 1300 853 437
  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) – call 1800 18 7263 or chat online

Sources:

WA Health (Mental health)Beyond Blue (Men)Beyond Blue (What causes anxiety and depression in men)Head to Health (Supporting yourself – men),  MensLine Australia (Changing how we talk about men’s mental health).


MensLine Australia is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with professional counselors providing information and support for all relationship issues.

MensLine Australia is a national men’s helpline offering support, information, and referrals to men with emotional health, family, and relationship concerns.

Services provided:

  • Specialists in men’s mental health
  • 24/7 professional phone counselling for men
  • 24/7 professional online counselling – web chat and video counselling for men
  • Outbound callback sessions
  • Referrals to local providers
  • Website, social media, SEO and content marketing
  • Digital advertising campaigns
  • Promotional material creation and distribution
  • Detailed call activity and service performance reporting.

Funded by Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Call 1300 78 99 78
Website: https://mensline.org.au/
or access online counselling.


Due to a number of factors including social norms, upbringing, and the role models we are presented with, some men’s mental health issues have gone unrecognised for a long time.

Through common phrases we hear like ‘chin up’, ‘pull your socks up’ and the like, we’ve been taught that many ‘head issues are nothing to worry about and should be dismissed. There is a growing recognition that mental health concerns are in fact serious issues and the culture of dismissal is a dangerous approach, but many men are still not aware 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?

Signs your mental wellbeing might need attention

  • Persistent and pervasive feelings of sadness, elation, anxiety, fear or irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyable
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Excessive worries, fear, or guilt
  • Changes in the use of alcohol and other drugs
  • Thoughts and feelings that are out of the ordinary or difficult to understand, such as paranoia
  • Experiencing sensations (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting something) that others can’t identify

Some common men’s mental health issues

Loneliness

Many of us have been there, but few recognise just how serious isolation and loneliness can be. Now more commonly referred to as ‘social isolation’, loneliness in its more severe forms is now seen as a contributor to many social ills including violence, suicide, and substance abuse.

It’s chiefly a feeling of sadness about being alone but can also happen when you’re surrounded by people – it’s primarily a feeling of lack of connection to the world around you, like you don’t belong and no one understands you. Learn more about loneliness and its effects here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/loneliness.

Stress

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 and 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 situations including at home, social situations and on the sporting field.

In manageable doses, stress can be a good thing 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.

Stress can take many forms – find out more here:

Depression

Depression is an intense feeling of sadness that lasts for a long time, sometimes weeks, months, or years. These feelings can interfere with daily life, well-being, and physical health.

You can find out more about depression here:

Anxiety

The most common men’s mental health issue in Australia, 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.

Although many people tend to dismiss anxiety as just being worried or nervous, it is a serious condition and can be a crippling experience that gets in the way of living our lives. It can have a major impact on both mental and physical health.

You can find out more about anxiety here:

Here’s the list of 10 surprising facts about men’s mental health in Australia:

1. Most male suicide is not linked to depression

When we talk about men’s mental health, lots of people think about the fact that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women. This is true. Suicide kills an average of eight people a day in Australia, six men and two women.

However, the majority of male suicides are not primarily linked to a mental health diagnosis, according to the Queensland Suicide Register. With depression, for example, while nearly half of female suicides (46.5%) are linked to unipolar depression, fewer than a third of male suicides (32.8%) are associated with unipolar depression.

Depression is still a significant factor in the high male suicide rates, but not in the majority of cases. Male suicides are more commonly linked to a range of distressing life events such as relationship separation (28.3%); financial problems (17%); relationship conflict (15.7%); bereavement (12.3%); recent or pending unemployment (10.5%); familial conflict (9.5%) and pending legal matters (9.0%). 

2. Boys have more mental health issues than girls

Boys (age 4-17) are more likely than girls to have experienced mental disorders in the past 12 months according to the Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The gap is larger for children aged 4-11 (16.5% of boys and 10.6% of girls) than for children aged 12-17 (15.9% of boys and 12.8% of girls).

It is often said that boys are more likely to “act out” and externalize problems while girls are more likely to “act in” and internalize problems. This pattern is reflected in mental health disorders in children:

  • Boys account for 72.1% of children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Boys account for 62.7% of children with Conduct Disorders 
  • Girls account for around 75% of reported self-harm
  • Girls account for around 70% of reported suicidal thinking 

Boys also account for 52.5% of anxiety disorders and 45.4% of major depressive orders. This changes in late teens and adulthood with women reporting significantly more depression and anxiety than men.

3. Men aren’t as bad at getting help as we think

The public story about men’s mental health is that men “bottle up” their emotions and need to “open up” more and get help. 

There may be some truth in this. We know that girls are up to twice as likely to access formal support with emotional and behavioral problems through health services, schools, online support, and telephone helplines. 

Girls are also more likely to access informal support though the gap is smaller, with over half of boys and nearly three-quarters of girls getting help from parents, friends, teachers, etc. Overall, girls are around 80% more likely to access formal support than boys and 40% more likely to access informal support. 

A similar pattern is seen in adulthood with women with mental health disorders being around 50% more likely to access services than men. However, some statistics from the Australia Bureau of Statistics challenge the simplistic binary story about gender and mental health, for example:

  • The proportion of men with mental health disorders (13.1%) who visit a psychologist is almost identical to the proportion of women with mental health disorders who visit a psychologist (13.2%) 
  • The proportion of women in the overall population who have a mental disorder but don’t access any help (13.2%) is slightly higher than the proportion of men in the overall population who have a mental disorder but don’t access any help (12.8%)
  • The proportion of women with a mental health disorder who say they aren’t getting the help they need (28.9%) is slightly higher than in men with mental health disorders (25.2%)

These statistics suggest that we need a more open and inclusive public discussion about men’s and women’s mental health that goes beyond lazy gender stereotypes and places more focus on ensuring our responses are a gender inclusive and provide a balance of male-friendly and female-friendly responses. 

4. Men have lots of coping strategies that don’t involve talking 

Men may be less likely to access talking therapies, however, research in Australia has found that men with experience of depression and suicide have a range of prevention strategies to “keep myself feeling ok or on an even keel from day to day”. The top 10 are:

  1. Eating healthily (54.2% do this regularly)
  2. Keep myself busy (50.1%)
  3. Exercise (44.9%)
  4. Use humour to reframe my thoughts/feelings (41.1%)
  5. Do something to help another person (35.7%)
  6. Spend time with a pet (34.8%)
  7. Accept my sad feelings/ ‘this will pass too’ (32.7%)
  8. Achieve something (big or small) (31%)
  9. Hang out with people who are positive (30.8 %)
  10. Distract myself from negative thoughts/feelings (30.5%)

5. Men have less depression and anxiety but more drink and drug disorders

According to the last National Survey of mental health and wellbeing:

  • Women are more likely to have experienced mental disorders in the 12 months (22.3% compared to 17.6% for men)
  • Women are more likely to have experienced anxiety disorders in the past 12 months (17.9% compared with 10.8% for men)
  • Women are more likely to have experienced affective disorders like depression in the past 12 months (7.1% compared with 5.3% for men)
  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to have experienced substance use disorders (7.0% compared with 3.3%)
  • Men are more likely to experience mental disorders in all three categories (e.g. anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse) than women (0.8% compared with 0.6%)

6. Mental health is having a big impact on men’s physical health

Mental health issues have a greater impact on men’s physical health overall. The majority of the burden of disease linked to mental health disorders is experienced by men (52.3%).

In terms of life expectancy, research in Western Australia found that the gap in men with mental disorders (compared to the rest of the male population) was around 16 years. The gap between women with mental disorders (compared to the rest of the female population) was 12 years. 

7. Gambling is linked to mental health issues 

According to Mental Health First Aid Australia, “gambling problems are mental health problems”. In addition to this, people with gambling problems are likely to have other common mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use problems.

In terms of sex/gender differences, the 2017 HILDA report found that: 

  • Around 1.4 million Australians report at least one harmful consequence as a result of their gambling (10.3% of men and 5.6% of women)
  • Around 200,000 Australians are considered to be problem gamblers (1.5% of men and 0.8% of women)

8. Men get eating disorders too

According to a recent Australian report on women’s mental health, eating disorders of all kinds predominantly affect women. However, the report makes the following point:

“Men also suffer from eating disorders. Large population studies suggest that up to a quarter of people suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are male, and almost an equal number of males and females suffer from binge eating disorders. We also know that under-diagnosis and cultural stigma mean that the actual proportion of males with eating disorders could be higher.”

This is a useful reminder that we need to look beyond gender stereotypes when talking about men’s and women’s mental health.

9. Dads experience postnatal depression too

Around one in 10 new dads get postnatal depression. Unlike new mums, dads don’t benefit from universal screening. When it comes to the mental health of parents, we don’t provide the same level of proactive care to dads, as we do mums.

This missed opportunity to engage men in conversations about their mental wellbeing, has become a key issue for some mental health advocates in recent years. For example, at least one international expert on Paternal Mental Health, Mark Williams, has called for all new dads to be screened and set up the #HowAreYouDad campaign. 

According to Associate Professor Richard Fletcher, at the University of Newcastle, dads’ mental health impacts children and mums too. Lack of partner support is a risk factor for maternal depression and research shows that a child of a depressed father has three times the rate of behaviour problems and twice the chance of a psychiatric diagnosis at seven years of age.

10. Gender-blind mental health services may struggle to help men (and women)

Like women, most men with mental health issues are offered “gender-neutral” services. While this may seem fair and equal, gender-neutral services can fail to take into account the different needs of men and women. As Rosemary Calder AM, Director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration has argued:

“Everyone knows that there are differences between women and men. The marketing and retailing industries spend many millions of dollars on market research to understand the needs and preferences of men and women so that they can gender-target their messages to both adults and children. They wouldn’t do it if the evidence told them that gender-blind strategies would work just as well.

“In spite of all of this evidence about the importance of gender, mental health policy in Australia is gender-blind. If gender matters to marketers, helping them to be more effective and profitable, surely it should also matter to governments who have a responsibility for the policies which support the health and wellbeing of the population?”

While Calder was arguing specifically for gender-sensitive approaches to women and girls’ mental health, the same principle can be applied to men’s and boys’ mental health. A gender-inclusive mental health system would work to respond to the different needs of men and women and ensure an equitable balance of male-friendly and female-friendly approaches. 

USEFUL LINKS:

Read the 10 Habits of Mentally Healthy Men

  1. Be Healthy
  2. Be Active
  3. Be Connected
  4. Be Happy
  5. Be Outdoors
  6. Be A Legend
  7. Be Challenged
  8. Be Strong
  9. Be Resilient
  10. Be Supported

(Source: https://www.amhf.org.au/)

Mental Health Concerns among men

  • Mental ill-health remains high among Australian men, with up to 25% experiencing a diagnosed mental health disorder in their lifetime, and 15% experiencing a disorder in a 12-month period.
  • Anxiety was the most common mental health disorder among boys (9%).
  • Depression was the most common mental health disorder among young men and adults, steadily increasing in prevalence from age 15-17 (7%) to old age (13%).
  • A significant proportion of men who experienced depression at a given point in time continued to experience it or relapsed. Of those with self-reported severe depression in 2013/14, 40% still reported experiencing severe depressive symptoms in 2015/16.

    Infographic: 40% of men who experienced severe depression were experiencing this 2 years later   

  • Young men were the most likely to experience suicidal escalation from 2013/14 to 2015/16, with just under 3% of young men escalating to make a first suicide attempt in that time.
  • Around 4% of Australian men reported that they are lonely (i.e. have no close friends).
  • Loneliness was significantly associated with experiences of depression and suicidality among Australian men, above and beyond area-level socio-economic disadvantage and unemployment.

    Infographic: men who were not lonely had significantly better mental health: they were less likely to be depressed, experience anxiety or any suicidality

Health service use among men:

  • Only a quarter of men said they would be likely or very likely to seek help from a mental health professional if they experienced an emotional or personal problem. Almost 25% said they would not seek help from anyone.
  • Adult men said they would be least likely to seek help from a phone helpline, with around 80% indicating they would be very unlikely or unlikely to seek help from this source.
  • Many Australian males were not accessing professional support. While over 80% of men with depression, anxiety and/or any suicidality in the past year had seen a General Practitioner (GP), only around 40% had seen a mental health professional.
    Infographic: Over 80% of adult men who experienced depression, anxiety or suicidality in the past 12 months had contact with a GP, however, less than half had contact with a mental health professional  

Media release

Mental health of Australian males

16 SEPTEMBER 2020

Despite making up more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide in Australia, a quarter of men say they would not seek help from anyone for mental health concerns, according to research released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

The mental health of Australian males

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 professional if you think you need more specific help

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