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Overcoming men's health support barriers
Overcoming men's health support barriers
Men generally avoid taking help-seeking behaviour even when they need it, so let's look at ways to overcome that.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago

Taking care of one's physical and mental health is important for leading a happier and healthier life. However, studies have shown that while men have shorter lifespans than women and are more likely to experience health problems and engage in risky behaviours, they're also less likely to engage with health services or mental health professionals, and are more likely to think that their health is fine.

This indicates that barriers exist between men dealing with mental ill-health and getting the support they need. We're going to take a look at this issue and explore what sort of mental health support barriers exist for Australian men, and bring awareness to what can be done to overcome these barriers.

Understanding the barriers

The 'Ten to Men' study has found that up to 25 per cent of Australian men will experience a diagnosed mental health disorder in their lifetime, and 15 per cent experience a disorder within a 12-month period. It was also found that loneliness was significantly associated with experiences of depression and suicidality among Australian men, well above factors such as area-level socio-economic disadvantage and unemployment. It's also been found that men average seven out of nine suicides every day in the country, and the number of men who die by suicide is nearly double the national road toll.

More worryingly, research has found that many Australian men weren't accessing professional support from mental health specialists. Although 80 per cent of men with depression, anxiety, and/or any suicidality had seen a GP between 2013 to 2014, only 40 per cent had seen a mental health professional.

These statistics highlight one important question - What's preventing men from seeking help when they need it? It's a relatively simple question with a complex answer.

Socio-economic and socio-demographic factors

According to the Ten to Men study on Australian men’s health, several socio-demographic factors were associated with poor mental health, such as higher area-level disadvantage, unemployment, being divorced or separated, identifying as LGBTQ+ and/or identifying as First Nation Australians.

The main barriers to health care for men aged 18 to 60 years between 2015 and 2016 were found to be:

  • Cost of accessing services - 52.4 per cent of men

  • Long wait time or no appointments available - 35.1 per cent of men

  • Decided to not seek care - 16.7 per cent of men

  • Too busy/other responsibilities - 15.2 per cent of men

  • No service in area - 14.1 per cent of men

  • Transportation problems - 6.7 per cent of men

  • Not taking new patients - 6.4 per cent of men

  • Lack of skilled doctors - 1.9 per cent of men

  • Language barrier - 1.0 per cent of men

  • Other barriers - 6.6 per cent of men.

Relative lack of health literacy and health service use

The Ten to Men study found that while a vast majority of Australian men (95 per cent in 2013-2014) considered their health to be important, only around two-thirds actively looked after themselves. Furthermore, the study found that while GPs were the most commonly accessed health service among Australian adult males in 2015-2016, around 30 per cent of Australian men were not getting regular health check-ups.

The study also found that men who identified as First Nation Australian had about 70-per-cent-higher odds of experiencing barriers to health service use, and approximately 25 per cent of Australian First Nation men had private health insurance.

Societal perceptions of men and notions of 'masculinity'

There's the societal perception that men must be "strong" and seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness. Men have been raised with the expectation to be "tough", hide their emotions and feel shame about vulnerability. This version of masculinity has resulted in a reluctance to open up and share their emotions, or to engage in help-seeking behaviour even when it's needed.

What can be done to overcome these barriers

On a broader scale, the Australian healthcare system needs to be more targeted in its messaging and communications in promoting help-seeking behaviour among men.

With Australian men generally having lower levels of engagement with health services than women, which leads to poorer health outcomes, it's important to educate men about the importance of help-seeking behaviour in order to build trust and confidence in engaging with healthcare providers.

It's also important to break down the societal perception of "men must be strong". We want to normalise the idea that it's perfectly fine for men to "open up" about their emotions and how there's absolutely no shame in getting help when it's needed. This can start from something as simple as chatting with a close friend or family whenever there's an issue and establishing a safe environment for those kinds of conversations. For advice on how to have these kinds of conversations, we've got you covered here, here, and here.

Building confidence towards talking to a mental health professional is also important, and there are several avenues to facilitate this these days, including face-to-face, helplines such as Lifeline, and phone calls. Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Sonder

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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