One talk at a time: combating the mental ill-health of young men

By Dante DeBono

National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Headspace, has launched a campaign encouraging fathers to talk about mental health with their sons.

The campaign advises fathers about how to recognise the warning signs of mental health issues and how to support their child through difficult times.

It also raises awareness of the services and resources Headspace provide, both online and at their centres.

Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said fathers can play a vital role in helping their sons get the support they need, but are often unsure how to start the conversation.

“In past generations men were sometimes reluctant to open up about mental health issues, but with the services and support available today we should be able to change that,” he said.

Government statistics indicate only 13 per cent of young men with mental health difficulties aged between 16 and 24 actively seek help, compared to 31 per cent of young women.

Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, recently released a report addressing the state of mental health care for young men in Australia.

The report listed key issues contributing to the mental ill-health of young men, including failure to recognise symptoms, pressure to maintain perceived masculine norms, and underdiagnosis of depression.

Dr Andrea Fogarty, a Research Fellow at Black Dog Institute and contributor to the report, said the findings show young men’s mental health needs are not being met.

“It is crucial to realise mental ill-health often manifests in young men through risk-taking, anger, and substance abuse,” she said.

“By teaching those around young men to look out for such warning signs, we can better focus our efforts in engaging them before these patterns become firmly entrenched into adulthood,” Dr Fogarty said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more than a quarter of young people currently have a diagnosable mental health condition, with suicide accounting for one-third of deaths in this demographic.

Research conducted by Orygen indicates that suicide rates among young Australians are at their highest in 10 years and are continuing to rise despite decades of prevention strategies and government funding.

In the last Federal Budget, $80 million was allocated to community mental health services to assist people with severe mental illnesses.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also announced a grant of $52.7 million for a new mental health in education program, aimed at providing young Australians with support and knowledge about mental health.

This initiative, developed in partnership by beyondblue and Headspace, focuses on the critical opportunity for early intervention and prevention during formative childhood years.

The report from Orygen also recommends providing national leadership and coordination, further utilisation of technology, and improving regional services.

“There is a clear need to identify new avenues for support outside of existing channels, which take on board young men’s own preferences about the kind of care they need,” Dr Fogarty said.

The Fathers Campaign is just one way Australians can address the mental health needs of young people, working towards removing the stigma surrounding mental illness and ultimately saving lives.

For more information visit http://www.headspace.org.au/dads.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 

Image source: Headspace

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