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Men's Mental Health Guide

Counselling

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Written by Joe Nightingale

Medical Doctor

11 Mar, 2022

Mental health affects everyone. It doesn't matter about your race, gender, beliefs, or sexuality; anyone can struggle with depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental health conditions. However, one group, in particular, often struggles to voice their problems: men.

Societal stereotypes often lead men to ignore their mental health struggles – even when severe. Going it alone, they battle on, sometimes even seeing their struggle as a virtue. After all, men are supposed to be tough, resilient, stoical, strong. But strength is also found in honesty and maintaining good health – be it a broken leg or a troubled mind.

Below, we will discuss mental health and men, including how certain conditions present differently and what services are available in Australia to help, including counselling for men.

What mental health conditions affect men?

All mental health conditions can affect men. The most common mental health conditions include:

  • Depression

  • Generalised anxiety disorder

  • Social anxiety disorder

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Schizophrenia

How likely are men to struggle with mental health?

Part of the problem with estimating men's mental health is men don't seek help for their problems. We know that men make up an average of seven out of every nine suicides in Australia. In fact, the figure is almost double the national road toll annually.

It shouldn't come as a surprise – one in eight men experience depression, and one in five men experience anxiety at some stage in their lives. If they're not receiving the help they need, it's not hard to see how events can spiral.

Moreover, men are more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol. And it is often these unhealthy behaviours that men use to cope with their problems. Men are statistically less likely than women to experience depression and anxiety. Such an imbalance, however, has led to male mental health being under-serviced, with counselling for men being accessed much less.

Men and psychosis

Another overlooked area of mental health is psychosis. Psychosis is a disconnect between the perception of the world and its reality. It includes conditions like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Psychosis is slightly more common in men and should always be treated by a psychiatric professional. Although counselling for men can help – it is not the primary treatment.

For more information about psychosis, please refer to the Health Direct website or speak to a mental health professional.

How do mental health problems present in men?

Just because men and women struggle with the same mental health conditions doesn't mean they present the same. Common symptoms across all genders include:

  • Low mood

  • Reduced enjoyment of activities

  • Persistent anxiety

  • Low energy

  • Changes in appetite

  • Difficulty sleeping / excessive sleeping

However, some symptoms may be more common in men, such as:

  • Anger, aggression, frustration, and irritability.

  • Substance abuse

  • Participation in high-risk activities

  • Thoughts or plans of suicide

  • Persistent feelings of worry

  • Trouble concentrating

Why don't men seek help

We often treat mental health in isolation. "Why don't men seek out mental health services?" we ask. The truth is – men don't seek healthcare, period! In a US survey, 65% of male respondents said they avoided going to the doctor as long as possible, and 37% said they withhold information from their doctors.

Indeed, doctors commonly observe that men only take heart health seriously after having a heart attack.

Why? Because vulnerability sucks – men don't want to be seen as broken and weak. If that's how they feel about their heart, it's little wonder counselling for men is seen as a no-go area. Nor are Aussie men any different.

It's not that men are wrong – being strong and capable, looking after your family, stoicism, and more are all good things. But strength doesn't mean no one ever struggles or that you need be alone. Even a supercar needs to go in for a service.

That's what counselling for men is. It's not admitting weakness; it's about maintaining yourself – body and mind. It's about taking responsibility, not just for others but also for yourself.

How counselling for men helps

Does talking really work? Does counselling for men help? It's a common question said by men sceptical about opening up. It's not that men don't have emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It's that expressing them feels so unnatural.

Talking about loneliness, stress, traumatic memories, social anxiety, and persistent sadness is alien to most guys. Even amongst friends, the conversation falls to the sport, politics, or hobbies and interests.

This is where counselling for men is critical.

Speaking to a trained counsellor can help identify self-destructive behaviours, alter negative thoughts, and put you back on the right path. Nor is it as stigmatised as it once was. Increasingly, Aussie men are seeking help, understanding that strength and support aren't opposites, that ignoring problems and going it alone isn't stoicism – it's a road that leads to using alcohol and drugs to cope.

Counselling for men is a stronger, bolder, and more successful choice. It's not weakness; it's strength. Indeed, being honest and open about your feelings and taking responsibility for your mental health is the first step towards a healthier, happier, and wiser life.

Should I see a female or male counsellor?

This really depends on you, there are no right or wrong answers. Many men prefer speaking to male counsellors a they feel they can relate to more and better understand the issues that are common to men. On the other hand, often men prefer to speak to a female counsellor as they may be a little more gentle and caring.

Which ever you decide, it's most important that you find a counsellor who you connect with and respect.

Accessing counselling for men in Australia

Every Australian has access to up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional every year through Medicare. You will need to speak to your GP first and get put on a mental health treatment plan. The Medicare rebates reimburse between $79.95 to $126.50 per session. So it can often be much easier and cheaper (even with the rebate) to connect privately with a counsellor.

It's time to find help; don't go it alone. Book a free 15-minute consultation with an experienced counsellor and begin the road to recovery.

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Joe Nightingale

Medical Doctor

Joe is a qualified medical doctor, graduating from Hull York Medical School, United Kingdom in 2017. He's an avid freelance writer and also one of the top science writers at Medium.

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