1 in every 5 Australians — about 4 million people — suffer from a mental illness in any given year, and almost half the population has suffered a mental disorder at some time in their life. With these stats, it is likely you or someone you know may experience mental health concerns at some point.
With Men’s Health Week commencing on 15 June 2020, we focus on the men in our lives and how to talk to them about mental health.
Lysn psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada discusses the best ways to approach the topic of mental health when it comes to the men in our lives.
START THE CONVERSATION
It can be hard to know what to say to someone when you are worried about them. When someone is experiencing a mental health issue, they tend to withdraw from those who around them. This can make it hard to start a conversation. Remember you listening to them might be exactly what they need: research has shown that having a strong support network can promote resilience and help people manage stress during difficult times.
A great way to start a conversation about mental health is letting your mate or loved one know why you are concerned based on the behaviour you have observed. For example “we haven’t seen you much at work mate lately how are you?” or “I noticed you seem really tired and flat, can I help with anything?” If they don’t seem like chatting right then and there, remind them that when they are ready to talk, you are always around to listen.
Men often have their best chats while they are doing something. Chatting about their mental health while watching a footy game, playing a game of pool or cards or even while driving can help the conversation flow more smoothly. This is because the conversation may not be as intimidating.
You might like to model talking about your own challenges to help them feel comfortable about opening up and sharing with you. However, if you are concerned about them. the conversation should be about them. Try and do more listening than talking. Ensure that you let them finish their sentences before responding and give them time to complete their thoughts. Rather than jumping in and trying to give them advice, allow their thoughts to sink in and show that you’re open to the conversation by asking questions or by acknowledging their feeling, “I’m sorry that sounds really hard” or “I would be worried too”.
Listen carefully to what they are saying. They might not use works like depression, anxiety or suicide but what they are saying may give you an idea as to how they are feeling. Comments like “I don’t know what to do anymore” or “I don’t want to get out of bed or leave the house” and “I don’t think they would miss me if I wasn’t around” may indicate that they have lost hope or suffering more than they are letting on.
Whenever speaking to someone about mental health, it is important to avoid judgement. Judging someone when they’re speaking about their mental health can result in them being less likely to talk about what they’re going through and reduce the likelihood that they will ask for help. Without realising it, comments that are meant with good intentions can actually show judgement. Instead of “You’ll be fine” or “Don’t worry about it” which can imply you don’t think what is happening is that significant. You could say “I’m sorry that sounds hard, how can I help?”.
Men can avoid these conversation out of fear or judgement, so what can be helpful is normalising the conversation about mental health. Reminding them that many men are impacted by mental illness and it can affect anyone. Having someone to talk to without judgement can be a huge step.
OFFER UP OPTIONS FOR THEM TO SEEK HELP
Unfortunately, there is still stigma associated with seeking help when it comes to men’s mental health. Although this is improving, many people still feel embarrassed or ashamed at the thought of seeking help. The important thing to remember is that everyone is prone to having a bad day, but if these feelings linger on, it is important to seek help from a professional. Just like you’d consult a GP or personal trainer for your physical health and fitness, seeking an expert’s advice for mental health is simply like a trainer for your mind. Remember that it’s a work in progress which can require an expert’s help!
Lysn provides access to psychologists over the phone or video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home for a fee. Lysn can also help you find your best-fit online psychologist through a simple, sophisticated matching questionnaire.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis or experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, please contact the emergency services or a medical professional straight away.