In simple terms, your mental health refers to the way you think, act, and feel.
The World Health Organisation identifies mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.
Your mental health can change throughout your life. Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, or low. Your mental health may also vary as your get older. As Healthy Male reports, loneliness is a very common issue among ageing men, but it can happen at any age.
Mental health issues can also be related to other health conditions such as low testosterone, obesity, or treatment for health conditions, such as cancer treatments.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there is a much higher suicide rate among Australian men. On average, six Australian men commit suicide each day. Men are less likely to reach out and get the support they need if they are having problems such as anxiety, depression, loneliness or chronic stress.
MensLine Australia summarise a few reasons why this might be the case:
- Men may have been brought up in households, and with role models, that never spoke about mental health
- Men may feel that they need to be strong and look after themselves and their loved ones without showing weakness
- Men may be less likely to have conversations with their friends about how they are feeling.
Everyone’s mental health has its ups and downs, meaning that your emotions or feelings can change often — this is normal. But if your mental health is poor, you may feel negative emotions on an on-going basis.
Because men may be more likely to bottle up their emotions, there is a higher likelihood of their mental health issue becoming worse. This can have devastating consequences, as we see with the number of male suicides each year in Australia.
So, let’s open up the conversation when it comes to men’s mental health.
What are the most common mental health issues in Australian men?
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues in Australian men. According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 5 Australian men will experience anxiety at some point in their lives and 1 in 8 Australian men will experience depression at some time in their lives.
Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
According to MensLine Australia, other common mental health issues in men may include loneliness and chronic stress.
What are some of the causes of mental health issues?
The causes of mental health issues can be complicated. Often, there may be more than one cause. What may be a root of on-going distress for some men may not cause distress in others.
Beyond Blue summarise some of the most common causes of mental health issues in men:
- Traumatic life events
- Relationship problems
- Employment problems
- Physical health problems
- Social isolation
- Significant life changes
- Drug and alcohol use
What are some of the signs and symptoms that something is not quite right?
MensLine Australia summarise some of the most common signs and symptoms:
- Feeling nervous or worried for a prolonged period
- Feeling sad or down often
- Mood swings (highs and lows)
- Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Feeling overwhelmed with stress
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in sex drive
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Thinking about suicide.
What should you do if you are worried about your mental health?
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should reach out to someone you trust as soon as possible. Do not assume that these feelings will go away on their own.
Talking to someone you trust is the first step in the right direction to getting the care and support you need.
If you don’t have someone you can talk to, there are a number of national helplines on the Beyond Blue website that you can call for confidential support and advice on next steps.