Men's Mental Health: Help for Men
Updated: Jan 6
More than ever before, brave men are conquering the final frontier. They are seeking psychological counselling. No longer is it considered 'weak' to seek professional help.
That's right! Courageous men are now taking the first step and seeking counselling.
As a male counselling psychologist, I always saw a greater proportion of male clients. In the last three three years, however, the proportion of men in therapy has exploded. Finally, men are stepping up, seeking support and not trying to do it alone. I often joke now, there is something wrong with you if you are not in therapy!
Traditionally, men in Australia, would suppress emotions and hide their problems. They were more likely to resort to unhealthy coping strategies.
Unhealthy coping strategies included: alcohol, smoking, substance use, anger, withdrawal, gambling, overwork, and other forms of acting out, like promiscuity. Sadly, these unhealthy coping behaviours ultimately make their problems worse.
Men also continue to have a high rate of suicide. This is unacceptable as suicide is preventable provided people seek the right help.
Today, men are realising that these strategies are not effective. Instead, they are seeking professional help to learn to manage their issues and develop more effective ways of coping.
Men’s Changing Roles in the Family
Once upon a time, men just had to be the 'breadwinners'. They went to work, they looked after the backyard and home maintenance. Woman were generally expected to do household chores and raise any children.
The division of labour was practical. Whether it was fair is another question, which we will not debate here. The point here is that gender roles were generally clear. Men and woman knew what was expected of them.
There was an obvious limitation of the traditional male role. The male supported the family financially, as the sole or main breadwinner. There was no expectation, however, for him to provide any care, practical support or emotional connection with the children.
Men today are finding they have not had an effective male role model. That is not to say their father's did not do their best. Rather male roles have changed.
How to Please Women
Author, Stephan Grünewald, writes about the 'performance crisis' of men. Many men strongly define themselves according to what their partner expects.
Men do not articulate their own needs. Men believe this is how they can receive and hold onto love. They assume this will make their partners happy. As the saying goes, 'happy wife, happy life'.
Many men eventually discover they do not know how to please their partner. They struggle to understand why there is even an issue in their relationship.
We fail to understand women on an emotional level. We try to fix things instead of giving emotional support.
Likewise, women fail to understand we are simple beasts and need things explained in simple, concrete terms.
Grünewald's found that women were irritated by dutiful obedience. Ideally, a man has to learn to be self-confident. They have to identify and articulate their own needs.
A good relationship involves both individuals being aware of their own needs. Then being able to communicate and discuss them.
You do not have to meet all of each others needs. Rather, both of you need to understand and respect each others needs. Then work together effectively, in a partnership, to ensure both of your needs are met.
In the 1980's, I remember there was much talk about the future. We were promised equal opportunities, advanced technology and more leisure time.
The expectation was not that men and woman would both work full-time. The assumption was that both would have equal opportunities to work and spend more time with family and on leisure activities. A better life balance was the utopian picture painted.
What happened? Today's reality is that generally both men and women work full-time.
This work commitment for couples, ignores the fact they have the same demands to fulfill caring needs of their family. More work in the same time.
We have all become cogs in the wheels of capitalism. Family has taken secondary priority to our societal commitment to economic growth.
Ever wonder why men get angry? In the past, we taught boys they could not cry, man up! We were told we were weak, or a 'sissy', if we showed distress when in pain.
Our choices were controlled by gender bias and societal expectations. This included choice of career, sport and recreational pursuits, and even something as basic as the colours we wore. Wearing pink apparently determined your sexual preferences? We have come a long way thank goodness.
Anything deemed to have feminine attributes was targeted, along with our experience and expression of emotions, except anger! That's right, anger was acceptable for boys. Boys fight, tackle in sports, play rough. That's expected until it extends into an inappropriate coping behaviour as an adult. Didn't think that one through did we!?
Anger is a normal emotion. It is what you do with anger that is important. Acting out anger in a destructive, or hurtful, manner is not condoned. It is important, however, to understand that men have been conditioned to feel comfortable with anger, more than any other emotion.
My experience with the men that come for therapy is that they are confused. They genuinely want to be a good husband, partner, son, or father but seem to struggle. They are lost.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is a state of well-being. A state in which you can realise your potential. You can work productively. You can cope effectively with the normal life stresses. You are able to maintain social connections and contribute positively to their community.
Why is My Mental Health Important?
Our mental health is as important as our physical health. In fact, both physical and mental health support each other. Too often do men focus on their physical health and neglect their mental health and wellbeing.
To get the most out of life we need to learn healthy coping strategies to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. The right support improves your health and connection with those around, as well as your contentment and quality of life.
Men's Health Issues?
Many things can negatively affect our mental and emotional wellbeing. Some common issues are:
Relationship problems, separation and divorce
Let's face it! Women. You cannot live with them, and you cannot live without them! Well, you can, you just have to learn how.
Men and women are different. While both genders are entitled to equal rights, that does not make us the same. It is a fact that men and woman are different in some fundamental biological ways. Whether we like it or not, upbringing, social biases, expectations and conditioning have also shaped us differently.
It is important to understand these gender differences as they can be source of frustration and even conflict in a relationship. This is particularly true with regard to how we approach problems, react emotionally, communicate and even solve problems. This is addressed in another blog: Gender Differences and Communication.
Loneliness and Social Isolation
Despite living in large cities people are often lonelier than ever, especially men. I believe you can be by yourself and not be lonely. Conversely, you can be surrounded by many people and still feel completely isolated.
Traditionally, woman maintain better support networks. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on their work. When they do socialise they often rely on their partner. When men experience relationship problems, they often report their support networks are limited or even non-existent.
Social isolation, loneliness, can further contribute mental health issues and unhealthy coping behaviours such as violence, suicide and substance abuse.
Work Life Balance
Men have reported an increase in work-life conflict over recent years. Sixty percent of men report some kind of work-life conflict. Work-life conflict especially affects employed fathers in double income families.
Boys, sit down and right a list of all the household chores that are to be shared between you. Just make sure that the gardening and home maintenance get factored in. Ladies, mowing is a chore, it is not fun!
Physical Illness and Pain
Physical health conditions and injuries always have a psychological component to varying degrees.
The brain controls all movement and behaviour and receives all sensory signals. Ignoring the psychological aspects of ill-health and pain can lead to greater suffering and longer recovery. In some cases, the psychological aspects can act as a barrier to recovery. Good mental health can reduce pain and inflammation, boost immunity and promote recovery.
A father's role in child development, particularly raising boys, is just as important as the mother's role. There is no handbook. Traditional male role model's fail to help men today, as their roles and the expectations of them, have changed so much.
Lack of contact with children, and even parental alienation, after separation can also be another significant factor men experience. See Parental Alienation for more information.
Work Related Stress, Unemployment or Retirement
As men still strongly identify with their work, work-related stress will affect them.
Significant work-related events can include retrenchment, workplace allegations, unemployment and ultimately retirement. These are highly significant events that can challenge even the best of us. Don't do it alone! Confidential, professional help is available.
Mental Health Difficulties
According to Beyond Blue, one in eight men will experience depression at some time in their lives. One in five men will experience anxiety.
On average, seven out of every nine people who suicide in Australia are men. The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll. This is unacceptable! Suicide is preventable, provided men have access to the right support.
Mental Health Conditions
Common mental health conditions experienced by men include:
To some extent, stress is a normal part of life and can help drive us to conquer challenges and perform.
When stress is too great, however, we feel overly pressured and overwhelmed.
Overwhelming stress is experienced when the demands upon us are perceived to exceed our ability or capacity. This causes discomfort and distress. More information on stress can be found here: Stress.
The stress might be experienced at work, at home, in social situations or the source might not be obvious. Severe or chronic stress can lead to other men’s mental health problems. This can include anxiety and depression.
Depression is an intense feeling of sadness that lasts for a long period of time, sometimes weeks, months or years. These feelings can interfere with daily life, wellbeing and physical health. Find out more about depression here: Depression.
This is the most common men’s mental health issue in Australia. Anxiety is a consistent state of extreme worry or fear. Fears are out of proportion to any imagined or perceived threats.
Anxiety can be experienced without any obvious reason or cause.
Anxiety is a serious condition and can be a crippling experience. It can impact on our work, relationships, family and quality of life. Anxiety can have major impact on both mental and physical health. You can find out more about anxiety here: Anxiety.
Mental Health Tips
Effectively managing your mental health can improve your quality of life. It can increase your capacity to support your family and mates, and allow you perform at your best.
When you are seek help from a mental health professional for mental health conditions you can learn to:
Better cope with life challenges and build emotional resilience,
Develop more positive family relationships, understanding and communication,
Identify your success factor,
Enjoy life more!
There are practical things you can do to help support your mental health:
Stay hydrated, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly,
Spend quality time with your friends and family,
Talk about how you feel with people you trust,
Do activities you enjoy,
Take time regularly throughout the day to relax,
Limit unhealthy foods, smoking, alcohol and other unhealthy coping habits, and
Set realistic goals.
Our website has further information about mental health and our psychology services and counselling for men.
Help for Men
Most common men’s mental health issues can be successfully addressed.
Reach out for help as early as possible. The sooner you obtain help the easier it is to address your issues. It can help to chat with a mate, or a family member.
If that does not help then it is time to speak with a psychologist who is trained to help you.
Help is Available
If you, or a mate, are experiencing difficulty, support is available. Please contact iflow psychology today or book an appointment.
You can book an appointments online, or by calling my friendly admin staff on 02 6061 1144.
iflow psychology offers in-person, telehealth and telephone counselling. We are registered psychologists. We also offer Medicare Rebates when you have a doctors referral and Mental Health Plan. We would love to be part of your journey.
Location Details: iflow psychology is located in Leichhardt Inner West Sydney NSW Australia
The information provided in this article is for information purposes only.
It is always advisable to speak with your treating doctor, health professionals, and legal representatives before making decisions.
This is particularly important if you have: health concerns; existing mental health or medical conditions; or feel you are not coping.