Male Mental Health
By Dom Sabrus
The blame game is strong when it comes to men’s health and help-seeking behaviours. Myths abound that men do not seek help, particularly for mental health concerns. The story goes that men will wait until they’re at their worst before they finally decide they should probably see someone. It’s a narrative that makes sense when you consider men are still dying younger than women, have poorer health, and completing suicide ranks in first position for mortality for Australian males aged 15-44 and third for men aged 45-64.
50 per cent of people who die every year in Australia from suicide sought help in the preceding six weeks from health services, and were unable to receive support. Studies are showing that men are increasingly willing to ask for help when they recognise the need, and there’s more progress to be made here. A recent study from the UK found that 67% of men who died by suicide had engaged with at least one health service in the previous 3 months, so what is it we’re not saying when we go to see our GP?
When it comes to healthcare, men usually present with mental health concerns as a secondary topic – we’re more likely to talk about a physical complaint and then slip in that we’re feeling overstressed, tired, disconnected, lonely, or have a head full of worries. It makes sense – it can be hard to know where to start, and often hard to be vulnerable. In the time of creeping uncertainties and global pandemics, we face additional stresses that we have never really faced before. Now more than ever, we need to take a clearer step when it comes to taking care of ourselves and those around us.
Who’s on your team?
Consider who you have on your team. Who do you go to for mental health help if you need it? In my own research into men’s help seeking, men said they would talk to a Psychologist or close friend as their second and third choice and to their GP as their first point of call.
It’s important that your relationship with your GP is a relationship of trust, and one that gives you permission to lay your cards on the table. The GP relationship is arguably the most important relationships in our healthcare team. If you don’t already have a regular GP, I encourage you to seek one out. Ask friends, family or work colleagues for their recommendations. Or otherwise invest some time to look at websites for local GP practices to read the biographies of their GPs. Pick a GP that seems like they’re going to be a good fit for you and your needs.
Regardless of whether you already have a regular GP or are picking a new GP – do your bit to help them to help you.
If I was to give three tips to people seeking help from their GP I’d suggest:
1. When making an appointment, let the administration staff know that it’s a mental health appointment or ask in advance for a longer appointment;
2. It’s easy to go blank in the moment, so write down what it is you want to say in the notes section on your phone or on a piece of paper and bring this into the appointment with you as a self-prompt;
3. Commit and follow through (i.e.: be on time for your appointment and actually attend!)
It isn’t your GP’s role to judge you, it’s a relationship of trust. Your mental health, wellbeing, happiness, and relationships are important. So make your next call count!