The next-generation of men's mental healthcare: Ensuring better reach, recognition and retention

Kylie King, Simon M Rice, Zac Seidler

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Men account for three-quarters of deaths from suicide in Australia, with 2,151 taking their lives in 2016. Despite population-wide initiatives (e.g., beyondblue, headspace) promoting help-seeking and early intervention for males, men remain less likely to engage mental health services than women. Masculinity has been identified as a factor in men's help-seeking behaviour, with dominant ideals of masculinity (e.g., strength, stoicism) contradicting core processes of mental health treatment (e.g., emotional vulnerability). Men often wait until their internal resources are depleted and crisis arises before seeking help. Moreover, when men do seek help, clinicians struggle to diagnose, communicate with and treat men's mental health issues, due to atypical presentation, with externalising symptoms like anger, irritability and substance misuse. This symposium aims to highlight how integration of male-sensitive adaptations across treatment pathways can improve men's mental health. Evidence suggests men will and do seek help when provided appropriate, tailored treatment. Men may need a stronger emphasis on education and orientation to mental health services to improve insight into their symptoms, treatment and interplay with masculinity. Here we call for sensitisation of awareness campaigns, training and practice to improve men's treatment uptake and engagement – and will provide evidence for how to get men into treatment and keep them attending. There are three distinct issues facing the mental health treatment of men for discussion in this symposium. Firstly, the significant gender gap in help seeking rates suggests targeted efforts are needed to increase men's awareness of and willingness to act on improving their mental health. The “Man Up” television production provided psychoeducation to a national sample on the interplay between masculinity and mental health, in turn promoting a positive shift in attitudes and intention to seek help. Secondly, once these men engage with mental health services, misdiagnosis due to atypical externalising symptom presentation is common. The Male Depression Risk Scale provides a sensitive diagnostic tool incorporating nuanced, male-specific expression of depressive symptoms thereby improving clinical recognition. Finally, once these men are attending treatment, it is essential clinicians learn and adapt their practice to the heterogenous needs of their client by conceptualising the impact of masculine socialisation on clients and themselves. Attributing men's poor rates of service use to their adherence to dominant masculine norms has dominated the literature. While useful, it omits the need to develop strategies to leverage, rather than conflict with, these norms. Developing more responsive and appropriate services can be expected to improve the mental health of men in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-56
Number of pages3
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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