Men’s Business

The importance of supporting the mental health of men cannot be understated. Initiatives like Movember have made huge leaps in demystifying depression in men and starting a conversation about it. 

There’s an acronym on the Movember website that I think is really helpful when it comes to the awkwardness of starting a conversation about mental health:

A – Start by asking how someone is feeling

L- Let them know you’re listening and give them your full attention 

E – encourage them to focus on simple things that could improve how they feel

C- check in with them after your chat


In my experience as a GP, I’ve witnessed mental health struggles show up for men often quite differently than they do for women. A man who is depressed might show up as someone with an “anger issue”. Similarly, anxiety can present as anger and often does. Men are less likely to cry and have the emotional release that comes from letting the tears flow and speaking about them with friends. The act of sharing and letting tears flow and having your emotions heard, held and validated is so powerful and it’s something that women tend to do a lot more readily than men. 

I’ve observed that men tend to be more likely to share when they’re side by side rather than face to face. For example, cycling with mates, running with mates, fishing with mates, BBQ-ing with mates or whatever it may be. The engagement in a common activity can be a good way to set a scene that feels more comfortable and conducive to sharing feelings. If you’re worried about a mate, then connecting with an activity and using the ALEC acronym above can be a good starting point. 

If you’re a man or you care about a man and you’re worried about their well-being, please ask. Every year, 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt and more than 3000 Australians died by suicide in 2017 ( An alarming 75% of people who died by suicide in 2017 were male. 

Supportive relationships, social connection, a sense of purpose and a sense of control all help a man to cope with the pressures of modern life and life events that can trigger anxiety and depression. Sometimes the stressors can be things like a family tragedy, the pain of divorce, job loss and financial insecurity, ageing, physical illness and intergenerational trauma. 

So often I see men minimise their pain, saying things like, “I don’t even know why I am upset about this. It seems so stupid. Other people have it much worse. I’ll be fine. I’ll just suck it up. I just need to get over it. It’s not a big deal”. 

Whilst I think stoic philosophy is great, and stoicism definitely has its place, there is a great power in connection with the feeling emotionally and physically, in terms of its embodiment. Validating yourself, and being validated by someone who cares can be such a powerful healing experience. 

Moreover, one of the most powerful things in my opinion is the message it sends to others, especially children, who watch closely. If a little boy or a young man sees his Dad express his emotions and share vulnerabilities, it can send the message to that boy that it is safe for him to do so, too. This safety is so important for this boy’s mental health.  Similarly, a young woman or girl who sees her Father show up as a man who has the capacity to be emotionally vulnerable is such a powerful thing.

Don’t suffer in silence. The days of the stiff upper lip need to be gone. The burden is too great to bear alone.