June 12th 2017 marks the start of Men’s Health Week.
Although it’s very normal for my peers and I to see a psychologist for support, us psychologists are very much aware of the stigma around seeking this type of assistance, which is even more amplified for men.
Why? One reason is because you must be “crazy” to see us. This is completely untrue. We are all a work in progress and we can always tweak things to make our lives better. Actually, we have many professionals (e.g. Doctors, Accountants, Lawyers) come to see us to ensure they continue working well in their very stressful jobs and don’t become distressed – they have decided that prevention is better than cure.
Another reason there is stigma around men seeing psychologists is because boys and men are typically socialised to not talk about their feelings, because it’s “girly” or more of a “woman’s thing”. Even from a very young age, how many boys are told “don’t cry like a girl” or if playing sport they may hear “you play/kick like a girl!”. The message in a nutshell: Don’t do anything girly!
These are some reasons why women are more likely to get help than men. In fact, ABS data showed that only 27 per cent of men seek professional help, compared to 40 per cent of women. This is quite alarming to us, as statistics suggest that men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women and suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged between 15 and 44. Furthermore, among young Australians (12 to 24 years) there are three male deaths to every one female death, with accidents and suicide accounting for most of this difference (Moon, Meyer, Grau, 2000). We also know that boys show greater susceptibility to family stress, especially in the development of conduct disorders, and they continue to be more susceptible to both physical and psychological problems throughout the lifespan (Wilson et al., 1992).
Unfortunately, many men who do not access support turn to drugs or alcohol, which tends to compound mental health problems and can cause many men’s lives to spiral out of control. Often by the time young men are asking for help, health professionals only see a drug or alcohol problem, not the underlying illness. Early intervention is key!
We also have many clients referred for anger management, but underneath that anger is usually hurt, regret, sadness or guilt. Recently, I’ve had some male clients who have come to therapy as part of a court order for anger management. They have expressed some uncertainty about the therapeutic process, and some have worried that they may offend or upset me because I am a female. My response to that is that:
- It is completely normal to feel uncertain, this is all new and we are working with you in a manner that often goes against societal norms;
- If you are angry, I know it is not personal, but it’s a reflection of your circumstances. If you are open and honest with me (and yes, intense feeling will come up), then I can work with those feelings. If you hold back, it’s much harder for me to help.
- I’ve heard cursing that would make a sailor blush! Trust me, it doesn’t offend me!
So, to all the boys and men out there, please do not let societal norms or stigma stop you from accessing the support you need. We went to university for many years so we’d have the privilege of helping you.
If you’re experiencing any intense feelings, or perhaps your family or partner keeps telling you to talk to someone, please call us on (03)9809 5947.
For a list of FREE Men’s Health Events in Victoria, head to http://www.menshealthweek.org.au/En/Categories/7.aspx
For more information on the statistics related to men’s health: http://www.menshealthweek.org.au/En/Pages/ee4d91/Why-Mens-Health.aspx
Need support now? 24-Hour Telephone Counselling is available:
- Emergency on 000 (or 112 from a mobile phone)
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Moon, L, Meyer, P., & Grau, J. (2000). Australia’s young people 1999: Their health and wellbeing. Cat. no. PHE 19. Canberra: AIHW
Wilson, G. T., O’Leary, K. D., & Nathan, P. (1992). Abnormal psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.