The concern for mental health and mental illness is widespread in Australia. In 2017-
18, 4.8 million Australians (20.1%) had reported experiencing a mental or
behavioural condition. This is an increase from 4 million (17.5%) in 2014-15. And
looking into the gender disparities, these were fairly similar with women at 22.3%
and men at 17.9%.
As the number of reports increase, so do the importance of reliable health services
and their usage. But did you know, men access health services at a lower rate than
women, even though mental health disorder rates are about the same? In fact,
women are around 50% more likely to access services than men. This means there
are a large number of men suffering silently and not getting the help they need, but
If we take a look at the portrayal of the two genders in society, men have been
stereotyped to be ‘tough’, ‘macho’ and ‘fearless’, where expressing any sort of
negative emotion is not appropriate. They are almost encouraged to create a façade
but as we all know, men are still human and humans constantly experience and
express a range of emotions. This irrational perception is the root of the alarming
statistics and it is time this issue was correctly addressed.
A research project, funded by Beyond Blue, called ‘Doing What Comes Naturally’,
found that men have strategies to cope with their mental illnesses which don’t
require much talking. The top five are:
1. Eating healthily
2. Keep myself busy
4. Use humour to reframe my thoughts/feelings
5. Do something to help another person
While these are important activities, they have not been proven to assist mental
health. In other words, it is very clear that these strategies help to temporarily distract
the mind from the condition but in the long run, they are not effective.
In addition, mental health also largely impacts men’s physical health. A study
conducted by Professor John McGrath, from the Queensland Brain Institute, found
mental disorders can shorten the life expectancy of men up to 10 years. This is due
to medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer and
diabetes, where mental disorders are at the root of them.
“We believe this study will be a wake-up call for the community that we really
need to do better at improving the general physical health of our patients with
mental disorders.” he said.
In saying this, it is safe to agree that the only way to address mental illnesses is by
speaking up about them. But how can we urge more men to do this?
MensLine Australia looked into the typical communication styles and body language
men adopt in conversations, to help them start talking. Standing side-by-side,
avoiding eye contact, being direct and keeping it casual are just a few tips to
reassure men to comfortably open up.
Then there are charities that continually promote good mental health, such as
Movember. Movember tackles men’s health on a global scale, including mental
health. Their movement advocates men to grow moustaches every November, to
show their support and raise awareness. With personal stories, documentaries and
the aid of support services, Movember aims to continuously drive men to take action
early, through their motto, ‘Talk. Ask. Listen. Encourage Action. Check In.’
Finally, online support services are easily and readily accessible, with many options
to choose from. As talking is the prime fear men face, online services can be a
remarkable way to comfortably and privately express their emotions. My Care My
Choice connects a variety of mental health services for people in Western Australia.
We believe reaching out is crucial to an improved quality of life. To the men suffering
in silence, we’re here to steer you closer to a happier life.