Ryan*, 28, spent seven years battling depression and drug addiction before reaching out for help. “It all started after an injury at work when I was 20,” he recalls. “I wasn’t able to work or play footy on the weekends and I was in a lot of pain for several months. I started to feel isolated and down, and when I was finally able to return to work, I continued taking the pain medication I was prescribed early on. I didn’t want to live anymore, but I didn’t want to tell my teammates or workmates how I was feeling because I thought they would see me as weak. I was always told to just push on and get on with it,” he says.
When it comes to reaching out for help with our mental health, it’s no secret that men are much less likely to seek treatment than women. The LGBTQIA+ community is even less likely to reach out for support. However for men, the fear of appearing less masculine or feeling like a burden is often the roadblock in reaching out for help with their mental health. It’s imperative that we continue to remove this stigma clouding men’s mental health and create accessible pathways for men to reach out to professionals they can trust before life begins to spiral out of control.
Traditionally, many men were raised with the expectation to be strong and unemotional. However, not sharing how we really feel or our human experiences doesn’t allow us to open ourselves to help if we’re experiencing issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. If left untreated, these problems can escalate over time and have huge consequences and negative impacts on many aspects of a person’s life and their family.
Some of us may feel embarrassed, ashamed or nervous to reveal to our family, friends, colleagues or a professional that we’re not coping well with life. However, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. There are times when many of us will need to speak with a professional, share our deepest feelings and talk about the challenges that life presents us.
In Australia, one in eight men will have depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives, however, it’s estimated that 72 percent of males don’t seek help for mental disorders.
“I lost my job and just felt like I was a complete failure,” explains Ryan. “It went on for years before I realised I couldn’t live the rest of my life this way. I called South Pacific Private and checked into their hospital within a few weeks. Once I sought help, I realised I wasn’t the only one. There were so many of my mates who also confided in me that they’d been struggling too.
“Rehab changed my whole outlook and I can now deal with triggers in my life. I completed a 12-step program too and haven’t touched a drug in 12 months. I know that I will have some dark days, but I can cope better now. Even just taking some time to catch up with a few mates or go surfing helps me feel better and put life into perspective.”
Boys are often taught not to cry
According to South Pacific Private’s Program Director and psychotherapist, Andrea Szasz, some cultural and generational messages represent men as strong and invulnerable. “While the origin of these expectations often comes from the old structure of communities or times of scarcity or war, times have changed,” she explains.
“Some boys may have grown up in an environment where they heard messages that ‘boys don’t cry’ or were rewarded if they showed they were strong and denied their tender feelings,” she adds. “At those particular times when they may have felt some sadness, fear or pain, they may have coupled that together with shame. So then, any feeling would put them into shame. Shame can further isolate them and prevent them from speaking about their feelings. This can become a vicious cycle.”
Breaking the shame cycle
When some men bottle up their feelings and delay seeking help, they may seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms, isolate themselves and spiral into addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling.
These unhealthy coping mechanisms driven and perpetuated by shame, may lead to serious health problems, relationship breakdowns, financial difficulties and job losses. It’s important that we break the shame cycle and encourage men to reach out for support and professional help as early as possible.
Seeking help at South Pacific Private
At South Pacific Private our highly experienced team understands the gender gap in seeking help for mental health and how to effectively support men through their recovery journey. We focus on addressing underlying triggers and trauma, and on equipping you with the skills and strategies necessary to move toward a happy, healthy, balanced life.
Our team recognises that men may have a different path into and through treatment. That’s why we offer a range of diverse courses, workshops and programs and inpatient, day programs or online models so we can meet you where you are, right now.
One of our key programs, specifically designed for men, is our Men’s Sex Addiction Recovery Program. This comprehensive program is tailored to individuals who identify as male and have a history of addiction, trauma, interpersonal and intimacy-related issues such as sex, love addiction or love avoidant behaviours. Addiction and mental health issues can often occur concurrently, and this innovative program tackles both in a trusting, supportive environment.
If you are unsure which of our programs are best for you or your loved one, please call our Intake Team (1800 063 332) for a complimentary assessment in which our experienced team will learn more about you and help you identify which program is best suited for you and your needs.
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons