To help you – or a man in your life – boost mental wellbeing, we look at the ways mental health issues typically show up for men.
If you only read one thing, make it this:
“Men are more likely to focus on physical symptoms than emotional ones.” –Dr Tim Sharp
Ever wondered why some mental health campaigns focus on men? After all, mental health is a concern for all Australians, whether men, women or non-gender conforming – in fact, one in five of us will experience a mental illness in any given year. But experts say many men are still unaware of the indicators of mental health problems that, without action, can spiral into a larger issue.
According to BeyondBlue, men make up six out of every eight suicides a day in Australia.
Positive psychologist Dr Tim Sharp (aka Dr Happy) says that although the signs of mental illness are the same for all genders, it can present in different ways.
“Firstly, women present more often than men, and men are more likely to focus on physical symptoms than emotional ones,” he says.
Those physical symptoms include feeling tired all the time and weight changes – either losing it or putting it on. The emotional signs tend to be feelings of anger (as opposed to feeling low) and losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
Social norms around masculinity are part of the reason men may be less likely than women to act when their mental health is suffering. This includes the tendency for men to think they need to handle things alone and the idea that being strong means staying silent about struggles.
“Women tend to have a better emotional vocabulary than men but given the right circumstances, men can be helped to open up more and seek help more,” Dr Sharp says.
“Men are traditionally poor at asking for help, typically equating it with weakness. But this helps no one.”
There are many causes of mental health issues in men, but according to Dr Sharp, some of the more common ones include “financial strain, work stresses, relationship difficulties, health issues and loss – or lack of – identity or purpose”.
What to do
Here are some great ways for men to stay mentally well:
- Stay physically healthy by eating well, being active and getting enough sleep
- Stay connected to your mates and community (via a sports team, for example)
- If you’re struggling, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or health professional. “It ain’t weak to speak!” says Dr Sharp. “Asking for help can be the strongest and best thing any of us do. Help is available, you just need to ask for it.”