IMPROVING MEN’S WELL-BEING
AND RESILIENCE

Men’s Health Week 2022 

This June we celebrate Men’s Health Week by acknowledging the factors that affect men’s mental health and well-being. Positive mental, emotional and social well-being are vital elements of overall health, yet many men don’t practice adequate self-care or get support when needed. This can lead to problems coping with life’s ups and downs, managing stress or serious mental health problems. So, let’s take a look at some simple yet powerful ideas for improving men’s well-being and resilience, and explore how we can support men who may not be coping.

The mental health of men in Australia

According to Australian longitudinal studies and health data, there remains a high incidence of mental health problems amongst men. As many as 1 in 4 men will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Certain psychiatric disorders, substance abuse problems, and issues like loneliness are also statistically more prominent among populations of men (AIHW, 2020). Suicide and suicidality remain leading concerns that disproportionately impact men, who represent about 75% of deaths by suicide (ABS, 2020). We also know that men in certain communities, jobs or social and family situations can be at increased risk of experiencing mental health problems.

Despite sustained efforts by many mental health organisations and charities to promote male help-seeking, there is still a significant gap between the number of men experiencing mental health problems, versus those who actually go on to contact a mental health professional. Misconceptions, stigma, poor access and isolation can prevent men from getting the support they need. The systems and discourse are slowly changing, but we need to keep having conversations that encourage the mental health and preventative well-being of men.

What is well-being?

Well-being loosely refers to the positive health state of our bodies and minds. It generally encompasses total well-being including our physical health, mental health, emotional wellness and even our relationships.  When each of these domains is generally positive we can function and perform at our best. Conversely, when we have trouble in one area of our life it can negatively impact other areas. Mental health is just as vital to our overall well-being as physical health.

The role of self-care for men

Self-care can be difficult for many of us. When life gets in the way in terms of work, family and financial commitments, the first thing that often suffers is time for rest and recuperation. The notion of ‘self-care’ is often over-simplified or even trivialised. To combat that view, perhaps we should look at self-care as the way we expend our energies and fuel ourselves. 

When we put positive energy back into our lives through rest, fun and healthy activities, it can counteract some of the negative drain on our well-being. If we approach it this way, then self-care can be seen as a series of inputs that can help to reduce stress and our risks of mental health problems.

One of our Mental Health First Aid Instructors, Nicholas Bloom, recently spoke with us about his work in the community. Nicholas also took the time to tell us about what he personally does to practise self-care and manage stress:

“If I can physically engage my body, whether it’s a sport, swimming in the ocean, going for a walk to get some fresh air outdoors, or getting out of the city and into nature, that can slow down my thinking brain, release some tension and calm my nervous system.”

Nicholas provides one example of connecting with things that bring him happiness and relieve stress. For others, these activities might look different. Find what works for you.

Nicholas Bloom

Nicholas also spoke with us about the power of conversation for men, “Having a space to just open up and talk and share about how I’m feeling, how I’m thinking, what’s going on in my life, what challenges I might be facing [is important]. So, that could be in a really informal capacity, to my partner or to a mate when we’re kicking a footy or having a drink together…or it could be in a more formal capacity like a sharing circle style environment, where people deliberately come together, share what’s going on in their life and support each other. “

Well-being for Men

Genetics, lifestyles, socio-economic factors, personalities and interests can all play a different role in the optimum state of well-being – and every man is different. The key is acknowledging our individual mental health needs, and to not shy away from practicing things that promote positive well-being. Unfortunately, many men still prescribe to a “toughen up”, “get the job done”, “she’ll be ‘right” style of thinking.  Just as immobilising a broken bone or resting when you’re sick is important to physical health, so too are actions for mental health.

Positive actions to consider taking:

1. Think about what mental well-being means to you.

  • What causes you stress in life?
  • What do you do to combat that stress?
  • What makes you happy?
  • Would you say you are mentally healthy?
  • What habits can you change or introduce to improve your mental health?

Doing a self-assessment of your own mental health is important – sometimes we don’t notice how ‘bad’ things have gotten until they start to cause us problems. It’s never too late to act. If your answers to these questions are positive that’s great, but there’s always room to keep working on mental health.

2. Improve your physical health for your mental health.

Understand that various physical factors can impact your mental well-being. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Get some regular exercise
  • Make sure you get quality sleep
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid/limit harmful substance e.g. alcohol and other drugs
  • Take time to rest when you’re sick or injured
  • Make the time to get a physical health check.

3. Practice things that enrich your life.

Finding enjoyment and satisfaction in life is important to our mental well-being. What that looks like is different for everyone, but some common examples include:

  • Gain new skills or knowledge
  • Pursue hobbies, sports and other personal interests
  • Set yourself realistic but aspirational goals for things to do or achieve and start taking steps towards them
  • Give back – it’s been proven that things like giving, volunteering and supporting others can also help you.

4. Practice healthy relationships.

The relationships we have with our family members, romantic and sexual partners, friends and colleagues are all important to well-being.

  • Make quality time for healthy, respectful and fulfilling relationships
  • Socialise with others in a way that works for you, e.g. catch up with friends, join a social group or even just call someone for a chat. Some people need lots of social interaction to be happy, others need less.
  • Know your own boundaries and respect those of others. If a relationship is causing you distress take positive action. Help is available from relationship counsellors, mediators and mental health professionals.

5. Address mental health problems.

If you are feeling low, sad, distressed or overwhelmed much of the time, or if you feel like you are not coping with any aspect of your life, there is no shame or harm in seeking help. Here are some sources of help you can consider:

  • Talk to a GP or medical practitioner
  • Seek a referral to a mental health professional
  • Use workplace well-being resources e.g. employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Use school-based well-being resources e.g. school counsellors

Call a helpline:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Men’s Line 1800 78 99 78
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 27

Supporting men who might be having a tough time

Improving your well-being is a personal journey that requires active participation – and there are some simple things we can all be doing to help men in our lives who may be struggling.

1. Normalise self-care practices: Practice and encourage positive well-being and self-care activities. Take the time to acknowledge anyone who is taking steps to feel better about themselves and improve their mental health and overall wellbeing.

2. Look out for signs someone isn’t coping: If you know someone who doesn’t seem themselves, has shown worrying changes in their behaviours, attitudes or habits or is demonstrating signs that they might be struggling, then take steps to connect with them. Noticing and acting on signs can be the first step to a person getting help, and you may be the difference between them suffering alone or getting the support they need.

3. Connect and have conversations: Show the men in your life (family members, friends, colleagues) that it’s completely okay to talk about mental health and that there should be no stigma around it. Talking positively and proactively about mental health and normalising help seeking when times are tough is important. You can start by being open to conversations and checking in on people. “Are you ok?”, “How’s everything going?”, “I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself, is something wrong?” are just a few simple ways to start. Show genuine concern, listen without judging, remain calm, be supportive and if needed connect the person with professional help.

Asking follow-up questions to keep the conversation going is important – this can be done at the start, and by checking in further down the track. Conversations don’t need to be formal – having a chat at the footy, over coffee or while you work for example, can be helpful.

4. Practice Mental Health First Aid: Mental Health First Aid training provides individuals with the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise and respond to developing, existing or worsening mental health problems in someone else. Becoming a Mental Health First Aider is a great way to help the men in your life. If you’re interested in gaining these skills for yourself, workplace, school or community group then you can find out more about our courses here. 

Further information

For more information about Men’s Health Week (14 to 20 June 2022), you can visit: https://www.menshealthweek.org.au/

Talking men’s mental health with Nicholas Bloom

Watch our full interview with Mental Health First Aider and Instructor Nicholas Bloom.

Click on the links below to connect with Nicholas.

Nicholas Bloom

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