Report Spotlight: Keeping it Real for Young Men’s Mental Health Care
This week Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health, have released a report focused on the issue of young men’s mental health. The report highlights that current understandings and service responses to young men are lacking and need to be reimagined.
Three things stand out to me in this report that I think are excellent and pave the way for better addressing mental health in Australia.
-> 1. the report is focused on multiple identifiers of experience, being young and being male:
It is necessary and about time that policy and research explores intersectionality in regards to mental health. As humans we are complex and as people struggling with mental health issues we are complex. No single part of us shows up in our struggles or in our recovery. How aspects of our identity and life circumstances interact with our mental health are as critical to our understanding and responding as they are to our overcoming and / or living well despite.
An example of this from my own life is my relationship to seeking help for anorexia. Before I was a mother I accessed inpatient treatment numerous times over a number of years. At a later point and once I was a parent I did not wish to leave our daughter for a minimum of six weeks when she was only twelve months old. I was seen as refusing treatment and labelled as non-compliant. I was never asked why I would not go to hospital and whether anything else could be done to support me. I had been reduced to one dimension which impacted ‘professional’s’ perceptions of me as well as service options that were taken away or deemed too ‘risky’ to continue. Whilst this complicated my recovery I am fortunate that in spite of the added challenge I recovered anyway. Not everyone is so lucky.
-> 2. the report questions the diagnostic criteria that mental illness labels are derived:
The report acknowledges that current methods may minimise or even miss identifying people, and specifically young males, who are experiencing mental health issues. This makes sense given that the history of psychiatry and psychology began with the study of women experiencing ‘hysteria’ and / or ‘neuroticism’.
-> 3. the report has a focus on reimagining service responses and including young men in their design and delivery:
Clearly the way things are currently done are not meeting the need of young males. By focusing on reimagining rather than mere adaptation of current offerings there is a hope that a new way can be created that makes the required difference. To have supports that are targeted, accessible and real absoluely can change the way that people engage with services and seek help. Lived experience literature, recovery stories and my own work speak to this all the time.
Keeping it Real: Reimagining Mental Health Care for Young Men is an important policy document. Click on the link or cover on the right (or below on mobile) and have a read. Below I include summaries from the document for you to get quick insight into the key points.
The mental ill-health of young men:
-> Young men face a higher likelihood of experiencing mental ill-health than at any other time in their life and access services at a lower rate than young women.
-> Data on the prevalence of mental disorders in young men is disjointed and a national survey of 12-24 year olds is required.
-> The annual economic impact of young men’s mental health has been estimated to be $3.27 billion.
-> Traditional masculine norms, such as being tough and self-reliant mean that many young men learn to avoid expressing emotions or behaviours that show vulnerability.
-> Psychoeducation based on positive masculinity should be a part of preventive responses to mental ill-health for young men.
-> There is growing recognition that for young men, symptoms of mental ill-health manifest through externalising behaviours and as such, their symptoms can be missed as they do not readily fit with existing diagnostic criteria.
Potential mental health consequences:
-> Suicide is the leading cause of death among young men (aged 15-24 years) and is higher among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
-> Symptoms that may be particular to men are not currently included in diagnostic criteria (i.e. expressions of anger or risk taking).
-> Differences in symptomology have been identified as masking the true incidence of mood disorders, in particular depression among men despite the high incidence of suicide.
-> Engaging more young men requires strengthening circles of support, encouraging help seeking and delivering services into the lives of young men.
-> Services need to: recognise behavioural symptoms; incorporate the role of peer support; and develop the potential of digital technologies.
… with heart,