Mental health is something that men are getting better and better at talking about. There is a growing understanding that although mental health issues can be triggered by stresses in daily life, they are clinical diseases that often require outside help and medical treatment. They can affect how a man feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people, and it is important that men feel they are able to talk about how they are feeling with their family and also their GP.
The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depressive disorders. Everyone experiences strong feelings of tension, fear, or sadness at times. However a mental illness is present when these feelings become so disturbing and overwhelming that people have great difficulty coping with day-to-day activities such as work, enjoying leisure time and maintaining relationships.
1 in 8 New Zealand men will experience serious depression during their lifetime. Depression is more than a low mood. It is a serious illness that can need clinical treatment. Those with depression find it hard to function and it can have a serious effect on a person’s physical and mental health.
Factors which can contribute to depression in men:
- Physical health problems
- Relationship problems
- Family problems
- Employment problems
- Drug and alcohol consumption
- Social isolation
- Significant change in living arrangements (e.g. separation or divorce)
There are many things you can do that can help protect you from getting depressed. These include:
- Staying fit and healthy
- Reducing alcohol use
- Getting enough sleep
- Having balance in your life – identifying and managing stress
- Spending time with people you like and trust and doing things you usually enjoy
- Developing skills like problem-solving and communication
Often people with depression also find they worry about things more than usual. This is known as anxiety. An anxiety disorder is more than just feeling stressed – it’s a serious condition that makes it hard for the person to cope from day-to-day.
It can cause physical symptoms like pain, a pounding heart or stomach cramps and for some people these physical symptoms are their main concern.
Anxiety may be constant, or it may come and go in certain circumstances. Either way it’s important to recognise anxiety when it occurs, and to seek help.
In New Zealand the suicide rate for men is 3 times that of women.
Suicide and suicidal tendencies are still some of hardest issues to talk about socially. It can be easier to approach the subject by having a concrete idea of where men are most vulnerable and what triggers can often lead towards an attempt on one’s life.
Those aged between 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide, and Maori suicide rates are significantly higher than non-Maori suicide rates.
Some of the most common triggers for suicide are the breakup of a relationship, debilitating physical illness or accident, death of someone close, a suicide of someone famous or from a peer group, or bullying or discrimination.
For more information or to talk to someone about any difficulties that you or someone close to you might be having in their life, please contact LIFELINE on 0800 543 354 or at www.lifeline.co.nz.