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Joanita Wibowo

Aussie men's mental health: A growing crisis

Aussie men's mental health: A growing crisis

Men don’t cry, so the saying goes. But while things may appear smooth sailing on the surface for Aussie men, the statistics reveal a bleaker truth.

Three-quarters of suicides in Australia are committed by men, averaging to roughly six lives lost every day. The number of male suicides has grown by 40 per cent over the past ten years, and now suicide is the number one cause of death for men under 45. In addition, one in five men will experience anxiety and one in eight men will experience depression at some stage in their lives.

However, men are less likely to seek help for their mental health, according to service providers. Even though they are three times more likely to die by suicide, men only make up 40 per cent of the people seeking help from the national helpline Lifeline or Medicare-subsidised mental health services.

So what can we do to prevent this crisis from growing even further?

More suicide prevention and mental health initiatives have been launched specifically to support men, such as MensLine Australia, Dadvice and Man Up. Apart from providing targeted resources on emotional health and wellbeing, these programs also aim to reduce stigma and encourage men to speak up about their issues.

“The more I drop my guard, and the more help I ask for, the better person I become,” Jimmy Barnes said in a campaign video for Movember Foundation.

However, some mental health advocates have pointed out that talking should not necessarily be the main prescription. A beyondblue report found that instead of talking to a trusted person, men in general turn to other coping strategies such as taking time out (36 per cent), keeping busy (35 per cent), spending time with a pet (33 per cent) or exercising (33 per cent).

“The truth is that [talking]’s not something many men are that comfortable doing,” Peter Shmigel, former CEO of Lifeline wrote on 10daily. “Call it culture or biology, but shaming them into ‘better behaviour’ through accusations of ‘toxic masculinity’ just won’t work.”

Men in crisis should be encouraged to “communicate and connect in their own way”, Shmigel said.

If you are experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au.