Men’s Health Week 2020

Did you know these facts about the men in your life?

We are celebrating Men’s Health Week this year, from 15 – 21 June 2020; and this year’s theme is all about working together for mental health and preventing suicide. What you might not have known is that men make up six out of eight suicides every day in Australia. That’s three times as many females. The national suicide rate is also on the rise. While it may be uncomfortable to read and talk about, we need to speak up about the health issues the men in our lives are facing, so that we can educate our communities about the challenges men face and how to support the men in our lives.

Digging a bit deeper, the primary reasons behind men’s suicide rates are not longstanding depression, as many would have thought, but rather distressing life events. These include:

  • relationship separation (28%),
  • financial problems (17%),
  • relationship conflict (16%),
  • bereavement (12%),
  • unemployment (11%),
  • family conflict (10%), and
  • legal matters (9%)

The current issues we are facing as a result of COVID-19, include job loss, financial hardship, concerns for health, bereavement at the loss of a loved one and relationship strain and potentially separation resulting from the restrictions and high stress climate. Look familiar? These are all the primary risk factors listed above.

We need to provide the necessary support to men in order to prevent the rates of suicide increasing.

Men actually do seek help!

The gender stereotype that men don’t seek support for their mental health concerns is actually not as black and white as believed. Women are 50% more likely to access support services for a mental health disorder than men. However, when you compare the rates of men and women who have a mental health disorder and are seeing a psychologist, they are almost identical (13.1% and 13.2% respectively).  

Men also use different coping strategies rather than “talking it through”. The most popular coping strategies for men include:

  • eating healthy (55%),
  • keeping busy (50%),
  • exercise (45%),
  • reframing thoughts through humour (41%), and
  • doing something to help another person (36%)

The issues that affect men’s mental health are quite different to women. Women experience more mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, compared to men. Men are more likely to be affected by substance abuse disorders than women (7% and 3% respectively). 

How we can support our men

The most important way you can help is to reach out to someone you’re concerned about and check in on how they are travelling. Acknowledge the difficult time they are going through and listen. If you are concerned someone is thinking of suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them outright. You asking will not trigger them into acting, but show that you have noticed a change in their behaviour and are concerned for them.

Work to reduce the stigma around seeking support for mental health concerns and suicide. There is still so much secrecy, shame and stigma about disclosing suicidal thoughts, as well as for the families grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. This greatly comes from a lack of understanding around suicide. 

So this Men’s Health Week, recognise the risks that our men face and work to reduce the stigma that still exists around mental illness and suicide. Check in with the men in your life, and ask how they are travelling during this COVID-19 crisis and listen if they open up.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, know you are not alone, reach out and get the support you need. If you are in crisis, call 000 immediately. If you need to speak to someone around suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.