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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Shaping Conversations About #Men’s #MentalHealth


Shaping conversations
about #Men’s #MentalHealth

Please note the following blog discusses men’s #mentalhealth and #suicide. Support services are provided below if you find any of the information distressing.

It’s time #men had an open conversation about a topic that many of us aren’t great at talking about: our #mentalhealth.

To be very clear from the outset, in focusing on the #health of #men – including #trans #men or those with trans history, along with non-binary or gender fluid folk – I think it’s important to recognise that this is not just a matter for the individuals affected, but for the whole community. The best people to improve #men’s #mentalhealth in Australia are those who live and work with #men in our communities and in our workplaces. In short, everyone.

An image of a man during a group counselling discussion.

Why is it important to talk about #men’s #mentalhealth?

#Mentalhealthissues affect nearly half of all Australian adults at some point in their lives, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Survey of #MentalHealth and Wellbeing: Summary of Results 2007.

Although not as high as the reported rates in #women, 20 per cent of #men will meet the diagnostic criteria for an #anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and 12 per cent will experience a mood disorder.

Men, however, are far more likely to suffer the severe consequences of destructive coping mechanisms such as #suicide, drugs and alcohol. Consider for instance:

I’m sure that, like me, you will find these figures alarming. And for every life lost to #suicide, there are people who’ve lost someone they cared about and are left to struggle with their grief. Again, these are matters that affect everyone.

Despite these rates of #mentalillness and #suicide, #men are under-represented when it comes to engaging in health-seeking behaviours. Of those accessing the excellent Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provided by Benestar, only one in four are #men.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

So, why aren’t #men seeking help if they need it?

Well, as with many of the problems in life, the reasons are varied and complex.    

What is apparent is that a lot of #men are reluctant to talk to or see someone about their concerns. They may feel it is somehow a sign of weakness, that their worries aren’t serious enough, or that they’ll be judged by friends and family. Barriers to help-seeking behaviours include outdated approaches to gender identity and the behaviour we expect from people in our society.

Regrettably, too many #men still grow up with the idea of a ‘stiff upper lip’ and needing to be ‘tough’.

Others feel that seeking help for #anxiety and #depression will negatively impact on their employment and job security and so don’t access help, resulting in significant distress and sometimes the catastrophic effects we are all familiar with. 

The differences in reported lifetime prevalence between #men and #women of #depression, #anxiety and substance-use disorder also raise questions. In my own profession, there is considerable discussion around these matters and debate as to whether we, as clinicians and researchers, are misdiagnosing #men. For example, are we failing to detect #depression in men? Similarly, are we misdiagnosing #men with substance-use disorder when the primary issue is #depression? These are complex but important questions.

But the key message is, people should not be suffering in silence and should not be suffering alone.

An image of two men walking and talking after a game of basketball.

How can we change this?

I think this begins with looking after ourselves.

As Beyond Blue notes, everyone’s #mentalhealth varies during their life, moving between positive and healthy at one end through to severe symptoms or conditions impacting everyday life at the other. Difficult life events such as relationship separation or conflict, financial problems, unemployment or bereavement can all take their toll.

In the world we live in, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. Often, there are so many things on the ‘to-do’ list that we put ourselves last. Exercise, keeping physically healthy, and staying connected with friends and family are critically important for looking after ourselves. We also need to be mindful of our own ‘tells’ and signs that we may not be coping and seek support from friends, family or a #healthprofessional. Beyond Blue offers some good tips for keeping well.

In the same way that we are, thankfully, becoming more comfortable talking about physical health issues, we should be having conversations with colleagues and supervisors, and asking, “What can we do to bolster #mentalhealth?” For a great many cases of #mentaldistress that we are seeing, if we support individuals at an earlier stage, they may not require more specialised input later on. A lot can be prevented through a supportive culture.

This is very much the intent of UQ’s #MentalHealth Strategy (2018–2020), which outlines a stepped-care model to change culture, build on the strengths of our community and tailor support to individual requirements. It aims to help equip our community with a set of skills to be receptive and open to conversations about #mentalhealth and not to close them down. We can all play a role in destigmatising #mentalillness and communicating to our colleagues and friends that it’s okay to put our hand up if we’ve got problems. If you’re not sure how to start these conversations, or to listen to someone who opens up to you, there are excellent tips from Beyond Blue and Movember.

We want to empower individuals to detect the early warning signs and then to find the services and resources to draw upon. We want people to speak up, speak out and get help, whether this is opening up to family, friends, a #healthprofessional or our UQ #MentalHealth Champions Network. The members of this network are trained UQ students and staff members who can provide support and referral information about #mentalhealth and wellbeing. There are champions available at St Lucia, Gatton and Herston campuses as well as other key UQ sites.

An image of two men hugging.

Help is available

All of us at UQ are committed to providing you with timely access to #mentalhealth and wellbeing services.

If you’re going through a tough time, or struggling with #depression or #anxiety, please seek support from friends, family, our #MentalHealth Champions Network, your colleagues, your GP or other #healthprofessionals.

Remember that staff and their immediate family members can access a free and confidential wellbeing, coaching and counselling service through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

The #mentalhealth of the #men in our lives is a matter for everyone.Thank you for being part of this conversation and for building a culture where it is OK to say that we are not OK.

Take care, everyone.


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