Men’s Health Week: We need to talk about this

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The COVID-19 pandemic has proved challenging on many levels, but do not be afraid to reach out for help – that is the message from one of Australia’s leading psychiatrists.

Men in particular are less likely to talk about their mental health, according to Dr Mark Cross, known for his role on television series ‘Changing Minds’. 

“Mental health is more on the radar now than ever before. We see a lot more people are feeling out of sorts and have had to acknowledge stress, with job losses and changes in circumstance. I hope that will lead to more understanding,” he said.

Dr Cross is urging Australian males to check on both their mental and physical strength during Men’s Health Week (Monday 15 - Sunday 21 June).

“We tend to ignore things and not want to accept weakness, and in terms of our mental health that’s even worse because it’s seen to be a weakness.

“Statistically three-quarters of suicides are still men, so something needs to change,” said Dr Cross, who works with the Ramsay Health Care-owned Northside Group of mental health services in Sydney.

He cited studies showing one-in-eight Australian men will experience depression and one-in-five will suffer anxiety during their lives.  Men are also twice as likely to have a substance use disorder than women.

“We need to get men to relinquish that hunter-gatherer, toxic masculinity where they think they have to be tough and strong. 

“It’s actually a sign of strength to acknowledge what’s going on and take positive steps – because you don’t then want to hit the bottle or hit your wife. Getting help is not a sign of weakness,” Dr Cross said.

He said just talking – to anybody – is a great first step for improving male mental health.

“Reach out, chat to each other. There are some great support networks out there, like ‘Mr Perfect’ or ‘Mates in Construction’, or your GP can discuss some of your options such as the services we provide at the Northside Group.

“And maybe give the women or the partners in your life a bit of a break. If they’re telling you, ‘You seem out of sorts’, don’t just assume they’re nagging you. Take it as a positive step because it’s not a non-masculine thing to say, maybe they’re right,” Dr Cross said.

Men’s Health Week started in the United States in 1994 and has been recognised in Australia since 2000. It aims to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease in men and boys. 

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