Men and Mental Health – The Surprising Truth

Posted on: July 29th, 2019 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

Did you know that depression and anxiety are much more common in women than men? Around one in six women in Australia will experience depression in their life, compared to one in eight men, and one in three women will experience anxiety, compared to one in five men. Men do beat women when it comes to alcohol abuse, one in five men and one in 12 women will become dependent on alcohol.

The experts don’t know why women are more vulnerable to mental health issues, and men are more susceptible to alcohol abuse. Is it that we are chemically different or do women suffer more mental health problems because on average they don’t earn as much as men, don’t own as much property and usually aren’t as senior at work? This means they have less power than men, and ultimately less control and fewer choices than men.

Men and mental health

In this blog I want to look at men and mental health. Why? Because I think you women are better than us at caring for each other and you also are better at getting to know yourself. You often talk it out with your friends, whereas men still try to go it alone when they are down which increases the risk of depression and anxiety going unrecognised and untreated.

Everyone’s mental health goes up and down during their life, but effectively managing your mental health can improve your quality of life, means you are better able to perform at the optimum level and enjoy relationships with friends and family.

But it is difficult to stay strong when we suffer loss and our hearts break and it is even harder when we feel we don’t deserve the pain dealt to us, when it is random or unjust. In your life you may have been cheated out of money, been sacked by a bad boss, been betrayed by a lover. Everyone is impacted by crisis at some point in their lives. The statistics show it – life is cruel.

Pain is all too common

Here are some facts I recently stumbled upon to illustrate just how common pain and suffering is: In Australia there are about 50,000 divorces each year and of those, 50 per cent involve children; 8 per cent of children under 15 have a disability; there are 1.5 child deaths per day in Australia; 12,000 people die each year in Australia from injury or accidents, thousands more endure a life-long disability from injury or accident; and 300,000 children will experience the loss of a parent by the time they turn 18. 

It seems catastrophes can and do impact on people all the time, and unfortunately many people don’t recover. What is the secret to resilience? I’d say the first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging when you are in trouble and reaching out for some help. That is a lesson men need to learn.

Did you know that the majority of men who commit suicide have not been diagnosed with depression? Six men take their own lives, and less than one in three are diagnosed with depression. Less than one third have seen a doctor and talked about their mental health. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.

Boys have more mental health problems than girls

It is hard to understand why men are so reluctant to reach out to professionals. Probably because we are taught to be tough and independent. More boys than girls are treated for mental health issues as children. Boys (age 4-17) are more likely than girls to have experienced mental disorders in the past 12 months according to the Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The gap is larger for children age 4-11 (16.5% of boys and 10.6% of girls) than for children age 12-17 (15.9% of boys and 12.8% of girls). Boys are more likely to ‘act out’ or externalise problems, meaning they are more likely to behave badly in school if they are having mental health problems while girls are more likely to ‘act in’ and externalise problems. Again look at the statistics:

  • Boys account for 72.1 per cent of children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Boys account for 62.7 per cent of children with conduct disorders 
  • Girls account for around 75% of reported self-harm
  • Boys also account for 52.5% of anxiety disorders and 45.4% of major depressive orders. This changes in late teens and adulthood with women reporting significantly more depression and anxiety than men.

Meanwhile girls are up to twice as likely to access formal support with emotional and behavioural problems through health services, schools, online support and telephone helplines. However, come adulthood and many men realise when they need help, however they are still not accessing help as often as women. The proportion of women in the population who have a mental disorder and don’t access any help (13.2 per cent) is higher than the proportion of men who have a mental disorder but don't access any help (12.8 per cent). The proportion of women with a mental health disorder who say they aren’t getting the help they need (28.9 per cent) is above the proportion of men with mental health disorders (25.2 per cent) not getting enough help. These figures indicate that we need to keep talking about how to help people – both men and women – with depression.

I have survived depression, and believe me it’s a nasty illness. Men are often prone to depression if they are experiencing stress, loneliness (due to relationships breakdown) and anxieties about the future.

Male ways of coping

While men aren’t getting help at the same rate as women, they do have coping strategies other than talking. Men may be less likely to access talking therapies, however research has found that men with depression use other strategies to keep going.

The top 10 are:

  • Eating healthily (54.2 per cent do this)
  • Keeping busy (50.1 per cent)
  • Exercise (44.9 per cent)
  • Use humour to reframe thoughts/feelings (41.1 per cent)
  • Do something to help another person (35.7 per cent)
  • Spend time with a pet (34.8 per cent)
  • Accept sad feelings/ ‘this will pass too' (32.7 per cent)
  • Achieve something (big or small) (31 per cent)
  • Hang out with people who are positive (30.8  per cent)
  • Distract self from negative thoughts/feelings (30.5 per cent)

Unfortunately men are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. This may be another way men try to cope when things aren’t going well. One in five men and one in 12 women will become dependent on alcohol, and men are more than twice as likely as women to have experienced substance use disorders (7 per cent compared with 3.3 per cent)

Gambling is also linked to mental health issues. People with gambling problems are likely to have other common mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and substance use problems. Does gambling cause these or do people gamble as a way of trying to cope? Around 200,000 Australians are considered to be problem gamblers (1.5 per cent of men and 0.8 per cent of women).

The good news

Most common men’s mental health issues can be successfully treated and there is help out there for guys experiencing tough times. If you are a man who is feeling down, go to your GP and tell him or her you are blue and need some support. You will be sent to a psychologist and Medicare will cover some of the expense. There are also other resources out there for you. Ladies, if you are worried about a man in your life, remind him that when the going gets tough the tough get going, to see a counsellor or psychologist and seek help. Everyone struggles at times – the key is to reach out for help as soon as possible so you will recover quickly. Talk to friends and family, don’t bottle it up, but remember there is always the option of meeting with a professional.

And if you are in distress call Lifeline. Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to online, phone and face-to-face crisis support and suicide prevention services.


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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