Breaking the stigma attached to men and journaling and how it can save lives.
The latest statistics about male mental health and suicide rates in this country are alarming. Every day, six Australian men take their own lives. That’s one every four hours.
More than 45% of Australian males experience mental illness at some point in their life, but more than 65% refuse to ask for help. Men are three times more likely to take their own life than women. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death in Australian men aged 15 to 44 — that’s over double the national road toll.
Each of the 42 men who took their own life last week had likely not sought professional help. They came from all walks of life and socioeconomic/ cultural background, demographic and geographical locations.
The one thing they had in common is they all left behind thoroughly bewildered and grief-stricken friends and family who had absolutely no idea they were struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety or depression.
A code of silence.
Part of the reason Aussie guys are at risk is that there's a stigma around speaking out. By contrast, women are three times more likely to seek help for a mental issue. Our cultural attitudes are letting men down.
Australian ideas about what it is to be masculine are still incredibly powerful and include keeping your worries to yourself at all costs. Being vulnerable isn’t seen as an option.
That’s why Australian men are reluctant to reach out for help when things get tough. Instead, they turn to drugs, gambling, alcohol and other forms of addiction that help them to mask their intense emotions. They're also less likely to turn to their mates for support – ‘big blokes don’t cry’ is alive and well across the country.
This message has to change. We need to show men it’s not a sign of weakness to speak out and ask for help. We need to focus on providing non-judgemental support in a way that addresses their specific needs, preferences and strengths. And we need to teach men to be more resilient, build stronger, more open friendships and feel more comfortable asking for help.
How journaling can help.
Evidence shows new approaches to communicating can significantly benefit how men manage their mental health. Looking beyond traditional ways of providing support can help guys get the help they need sooner before it's too late.
Journaling is an excellent place to start. While there’s definitely still a stigma about men keeping a diary, changing this is vital for the future of men’s health – and here’s why:
- Keeping a regular journal can help people work on their mental fitness.
- It teaches us to be more open about our thoughts and feelings and recognise when we’re masking our emotions.
- Journaling is a safe way to explore notions without feeling judged by another.
- It can help relieve stress and other mental health issues.
- Journaling can enable the writer to work through complex problems that seem impossible to address adequately face-to-face.
- It allows guys to communicate in a different way – one that focusses on goals and solutions, taking control and getting their lives back on track.
Journaling prompts to help men develop a regular writing practise include:
- What’s your life and work situation right now? Where do you work, or what kind of work are you looking for? If everything was perfect, what would your life look like?
- What's bugging you? Write about your stress factors and take a good look at them. What steps can you take to ease your burden and make your life easier?
- Jot down all the ideas swirling around your head right now. What stands out as needing immediate attention?
- What would you like your life to look like today, tomorrow, next week and next year? How can you put steps into place to make those dreams a reality?
- What’s really stopping you from getting what you want?