Talking about Mental Health
Mental health is an issue often dealt with but not as often talked about. According to the Australian Bureau of statistics, one in five Australians experience mental illness each year… but that’s just those who admitted it. The most common forms of mental illness experienced in Australia are anxiety disorders (14.4%), followed by mood disorders, which include depression (6.2%), and substance use disorders (5.1%), 4.3% of which were alcohol related. In 2015 3027 people commit suicide, 2292 were men and 735 were women.
Too often mental health gets swept under the rug and not talked about, with only one in three sufferers likely to access support and only 1 per cent being admitted to hospital. When it comes to mental health, the statistics show that men and women deal with mental and emotional health differently. Women are twice as likely to use mental health services than men and men are twice as likely to experience issues related to substance abuse.
Men on average die four years younger than women and are more likely to endure chronic illness. The Men’s health foundation Movember released a five-country survey of over 10000 men and women that showed that men deal with challenges in a way that negatively affects their mental health long term. One of the survey’s lead authors, Professor Jane Burns from the University of Sydney stated that stressful life incidents such as job loss or the breakdown of a relationship eventuated in suicidal thoughts or behaviours in 47% of men.
Men were also twice as likely to turn to drinking, drugs and antisocial behaviour in times of crisis than women. For example, the men surveyed responded to tough times by increasing alcohol, tobacco or drug consumption (35%), becoming aggressive (21%) and taking more risks (27%).
Charlotte Webb, the Movember Foundation Director for Australia and NewZealand, stated that difficult experiences are more likely to rock men to the core. “Men take their own lives at three times the rate of women. The results of the survey across the five countries exposes the magnitude of men’s vulnerability when dealing with particular crisis points in life,” said Ms Webb.
Many Australian men feel they must live up to a stereotype of being the family rock. This creates the illusion that they must always possess a ‘stiff upper lip’ and to always act ‘manly’ despite hardship. Men who would benefit from support fear the judgement of reaching out and instead turn to negative, coping mechanisms that they deem more socially acceptable and masculine such as excess drinking, smoking and drugs
Although they deal with mental health differently, women face extensive challenges to their mental health in their day-to-day life. Societal expectations perpetuated by the media create unrealistic images of femininity that takes a toll on mental wellbeing for women of all ages, but especially young women who are still developing their self-image.
A report from the American Psychological Association (APA) state that sexualised images of young women in advertising, merchandising and the media is extremely detrimental to self-esteem, self-image and healthy development. Sexualisation was found in all forms of media from visual advertising, all the way through to music lyrics. Further, attitudes from peer groups and family have been found to contribute to these pressures.
Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz stated: “The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development.”
“We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”
The consequences of sexualisation were grouped into 3 categories:
Cognitive and Emotional Consequences, which include the objectification of women, which undermines confidence in ones body, often leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
Mental and Physical Health, which include a wide range of mental disorders, the most common of which being eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
Sexual Development, research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
Psychologist Stephen Hinshaw from the University of California, Berkeley states that another problem facing young women and teenagers is large expectations placed upon them from a young age. These expectations include pressures to be brainy, athletic, nurturing, and look like supermodels – while juggling homework, social networking and resumé-padding activities. Hinshaw states such demands are fuelling a generational mental health crisis. Pressures to compete in male and female roles, and juxtaposing messages to be both caring and ambitious, whilst maintaining a model figure have led to a surge in adolescent depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, suicide, and aggression. Thus in this tense climate it can be seen why suicides for young women have increased 26 precent over the last five years with 56 girls aged between 15 and 19 taking their own lives in 2015, up from 38 in 2014.
It is no question that mental health is an endearing problem in our society, however one may ask what can be done about such a complex problem. As has been stated, seeking support in the form of help (therapeutic and medical) and discussion is one of key agents in aiding the mental health crisis. Australia has many support organizations available to those facing difficult times.
To list a few:
Beyond Blue is and organization specializing in depression and anxiety for all.
- The Movember Foundation focuses on men’s issues and opening up the ability for men to talk about their problems.
- Headspace is a government initiative that focuses on young peoples mental health, and provides resources to seek support.
- Blackdog Institute is and Australian institute that focuses on depression related illnesses.
- Lifeline Institute focuses on crisis and suicide prevention.
In the spirit of providing support, The Rhythm Hut is introducing 2 new programs that focus on opening discussion in the form of group circles.
Masters of the Universe – Men’s sacred circle
This sacred circle is a safe place where men can talk without criticism or fear of judgment. Kirt from Modern Organic leads the circle, forming a place where men can join together to talk, teach, listen and learn from each other.
AGES: Teens and Adults
WHEN: 4th Thursday of every month
WHERE: The Rhythm Hut – 135 Faunce Street, Gosford 2250
COST: By Donation
CONTACT: Lou 0420 682 258
Teen Girls Sister Circle
The Teen Girls Sister Circle is a place where girls can meet new friends, a place to learn, open up and speak honestly without fear of judgement. The aim is to learn about life, each other and many other topics relevant to teenage girls today. This service is courtesy of Conscious Evolution Coaching Services.
AGES: High school grade 9-12
WHEN: Wed 10th May – Wed 28th June (8 weeks) 3.45 – 5.35pm
WHERE: The Rhythm Hut, 135 Faunce St, Gosford
COST: $20 per session, casual sessions welcome
CONTACT: Carol 0418 412 697
Mental health is a challenge that most of us will face in our lifetimes. If you or somebody you know is facing mental health issues please do not hesitate to contact one of the many support services available.