Men's Mental Health: How to Spot the Signs

mental health Nov 21, 2021

'Toughen up.'

'Man up, don't cry.'

'Stop acting like a girl.'

You've probably heard these phrases before. We hear them at school, at sport's games, in the backyard and on TV.

Although rarely meant to intentionally cause harm, phrases like this perpetuate the stigma that men should be tough and 'suck it up' or hide their emotions. 

In Australia, men make up approximately seven out of nine suicides every day. Globally, one male dies by suicide every minute. 

Men's mental health is an issue that can't be ignored. Evidence indicates men are far less likely to seek help for mental health conditions than women, with one in eight experiencing depression in their lifetime.

A multitude of reasons can cause mental health issues in men. It can stem from a difficult life situation, a combination of small things built up over time or occasionally, there is no apparent cause at all. Depression and anxiety looks different to everyone, and regardless of the reason, all cases are valid. 

This International Men's Day, we want to raise awareness for men's mental health. Do you know the signs to look out for? In yourself, your mates, your partner or family members?

Common Causes

Depression and anxiety look different for everyone. If you, a friend or someone you know has recently gone through the following, it's worth taking the time to check in. Beyond Blue outline some of the common causes of mental health illness in men:

  • Physical health problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Employment problems
  • Social isolation
  • A significant change in living arrangements (e.g. separation or divorce)
  • Pregnancy and birth of a baby
  • Drug and alcohol use

Additionally, certain men are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues than others. Men at a higher risk include young men, new fathers, older men, gay, bisexual or transgender men, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander men and men living in rural areas.

Despite this, depression and anxiety does not discriminate and can impact anyone at any point in their life. 

Signs and Symptoms

Depression and anxiety can be hard to notice, especially in men, and signs differ from person to person. Although women are at higher risk of developing depression, it is usually harder to diagnose in men - resulting in longer-lasting symptoms and a higher risk of suicide.

Everyone experiences low moods, anger, sadness and negative emotions, but if someone has been feeling this way for longer than two weeks, this may be cause for concern.

Depression can manifest in more ways than one, and men are much more likely to notice the physical symptoms rather than the emotional signs first. Physical symptoms include weight change, feeling tired all the time and headaches.

While women are more inclined to ruminate on negative emotions, men are more likely to distract themselves. This can result in a higher chance of alcohol and drug abuse, anger, and irritability. 

Additionally, a loss of interest in things that once sparked joy, like hanging out with mates, sport, hobbies etc., can also indicate something more serious is going on.

No matter how much these signs are ignored, they are unlikely to go away on their own. 

Role of the Carer

There is often deep-rooted societal pressure for men to 'provide' for the family, and as a result, men are more likely to hide their genuine emotions. Recently, there has been a rise in awareness surrounding gender roles and support for men struggling with mental health.

Here at EQ Minds, we are big ambassadors for perinatal mental health awareness. Gidget Foundation Australia is a not for profit organisation helping new parents receive timely, appropriate and specialist care for their mental health and wellbeing.

In recent years, perinatal depression and anxiety have impacted more and more new Dad's as traditional gender roles are shifting.

Recent evidence suggests one in ten new dads are impacted at some point from pregnancy through to the first year after birth, with it escalating to one in five if the mother suffers from depression during this time. The transition to parenthood can be challenging. Gidget Foundation Australia outline some of the signs to look out for in men during this time:

  • Increased irritability and anger
  • Often feeling close to tears or crying a lot
  • Feeling sad, down, numb and empty
  • Feeling hopeless, with no interest in baby or other people or things you or your partner used to enjoy
  • Decreased energy and exhaustion
  • Having trouble thinking clearly, lack of concentration and poor memory

Ways to change the narrative

No matter how bad you feel, you are not alone. There has been an increase in education and resources to help men understand what's going on and how to reach out. Some of the ways we can continue to raise awareness and education around men's mental health include changing the way we communicate.

Men and women tend to communicate differently. Changing the style of communication when talking about mental health can make a big difference. Counsellors are trained to use language focused around goals and solutions rather than 'talking about feelings.'

Using phrases such as 'mental fitness' instead of 'suffering from mental health issues' can make men feel more comfortable and in control. 

Even something as small as a change in body language can have a big impact. A great way of doing this is trying the 'shoulder to shoulder' style of communicating, which takes the pressure away from eye contact and makes the conversation feel more casual.

How to get help

The important thing to know is that you or those closest to you are never alone, and help is not too far away. Consider reaching out to friends and family, talking to a GP, making an action plan, or taking medication as some steps to take control of your mental health.

Mental Health Resources for Men

Lifeline Australia | 13 11 14
Lifeline New Zealand | 0800 543 354
Kids Helpline | 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia | 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service | 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue | 1300 22 4636
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling | 1800 011 046