Mike Campbell, the co-Founder of The MENtour, shares some easy-to-implement ways to support the mental health of the men in your life.
But we need to talk about it. Did you know that three out of four suicide deaths in Australia are men? That one in five men suffer from anxiety? Or that the average onset for mental health issues for men start at the age of 24? These are the concerning stats that came out of the 2019 State of Men in Australia study.
In an effort to change things, the team behind ‘Manifest’ Sydney is hosting a two-day event (November 16 – 17) to bring together the brightest minds across industries to openly and publicly combat the stigma surrounding male mental health.
Prior to the event Mike Campbell, the co-Founder of The MENtour and a speaker on the panel, spoke to body+soul about the unfortunate truths regarding men’s mental health in our country.
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The reality of male mental health in Australia
Campbell agrees that the stigma around mental health makes it difficult for guys to resurface their feelings or even address it with professionals, saying “The default mode for most men when it comes to handling mental and emotional challenges is to keep it in, stuff it down, and suffer in silence.”
“A majority of men think mental health is a taboo subject, like talking about it mean something is wrong with them.”
When it comes to suffering mentally as a man, Campbell believes that “limited emotional literacy” is the most common mental health issue among Aussie men.
“We struggle to understand, experience and process our emotions. As a result, we pay prices for ineffective expression or repression of emotions.” he told body+soul. “We create internal stories building small issues into things they’re not, or flying off the handle inappropriately, which often create a perpetuating cycle of harsh internal self-talk.”
Despite having an “Aussie Bloke” mentality in Australia, he says this is unfortunately a common behavior in other parts of the Western world.
“It’s perpetuated every time boys are told to “Man up” or “Toughen up” when it’s completely unsuitable, and so the cycle of men feeling like they can’t feel, they can’t communicate and open up continues”.
Real-life ways to support the men in your life
Despite this event being targeted at a male audience, females are welcome to attend and show support. In fact, it is really important that females are educated about how to approach the sensitive topic with their partners, sons or any other men in their life.
Here is the top tips Campbell has for females when they are trying to support their male counterparts:
1. Be his biggest cheerleader
Let him know how and why you appreciate him. Especially when it relates to him speaking more openly. Make this a common way of communicating.
2. Make an invitation
If you would like him to talk to someone or see a professional, then telling him to do it likely won’t work. Instead, try making it an invitation. Invite him to consider a different option to his current approach and then let him choose it.
3. Let him be fallible
If he needs it, give him permission to not have all the answers, to relax and be fallible from time to time, to share, to play, to be light.
4. Create a safe space
Where possible, make it safe for him to communicate more openly. This might be in conversation with you, or it could be by suggesting he catches up with the friend/colleague of his that has the skills and willingness to have real conversations. It could look like many things, but supporting him, listening, not judging if and when he communicates, is crucial.
5. Give him space
Sometimes, when appropriate, give him the space he needs to get his s**t together without consultation. Some guys need to go inside first. But you get to ask him for what he needs so you can support him.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can receive crisis support by phoning Lifeline on 13 11 14.