Australian men are leading the way in some mental health statistics – and not in a good way.

Psychologist, Dr David Anthony says men don’t seek professional support early enough. “Traditionally, the times that men look to engage in support is when things have gone pear shaped; there’s often relationships breaking down or maybe trouble at work. Men tend not to seek help but withdraw into themselves, to avoid addressing the issues at hand.

“As a result, we will see men acting out, often as an emotional release, because they haven’t developed the skills to process the emotions in other ways. This could be increased aggressive behaviour, displays of frustration, or increased risk-taking behaviour such as drug and alcohol use or reckless driving. When they show less concern for their own safety or start behaving aggressively towards loved ones, it’s a pretty strong indicator they need to be getting professional help.”

The research highlights that 50 to 70% of men don’t seek professional support, and of those that do, 43% of men regret asking for help because it didn’t meet their expectations. So, what is it that can help men improve their mental health?

Generally, men don’t like the traditional model of sitting in a waiting room, then on the couch, talking about their problems. Even before the age of covid, Dr Anthony and his colleagues designed their video telehealth psychology clinic Mantle Health in a way to bring men the professional support they so badly needed.

“It was based on this notion of providing a service that is more accessible. Utilising a secure video-based platform allows clients to engage from a place that is often more comfortable for them – they can log on from the safety of their home, sit out in the car if there’s too much noise in the house, or even from the office at work. Our service opens up the opportunity for a lot more men,” he says.

“There’s also a great deal of research out there now that identifies that the way we provide psychological support for men is different to the way we provide it for women. We know a strength-based approach works well for men, because a lot of the time we end up in therapy due to a whole lot of problems or ‘weaknesses’ that have gotten on top of us. So the initial focus should be on how we incorporate some of the things that actually work into a man’s life? How do we highlight those strengths in a therapeutic setting to be able to build a client back up?”

By also using an approach that gives the client a feeling of autonomy in the process, where they feel like they can have a say in the direction of therapy and what we’re focusing on, is another key for engaging with men. They also benefit from behavioural activation – where they put into place what they’ve learned with the support of a psychologist.

What might you be able to do for the men in your life? Overall, once men have identified that they need more help and support, the first port of call should always be a chat with those closest to them – as a loved one, your role is to provide a supportive space for this to occur. Dr Anthony says “One of the best ways, to get passed this stage of feeling overwhelmed and like a failure is to verbalise it, and doing so with someone you trust often allows you to progress. Then, they need to look at how they start to find small ways to start doing the things that matter most, and some nudging back to these activities from loved ones can be really helpful, perhaps even doing some of these things with them. It might mean small bits of physical activity, gentle stretching and movement, restarting a hobby, or spending some quality time with loved ones. Of course, while professional support can often be of benefit when you’re ready, your own self-care activities are always important and should be a regular part of your schedule, regardless of whether or not you’re waiting for an appointment with your GP or psychologist.”

Importantly, if you or anyone you know needs immediate support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, MensLine on 1300 78 99 78 or Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800.