If Australia is to be genuinely committed to reducing rates of suicide, problematic substance use, and aggression and violence (including alcohol related and family violence), then we must have a coordinated plan for young men’s mental health.
Only a small proportion of young men who have a need for care access services receive appropriate treatment for their mental ill-health. As a group, young males are almost three times as likely to die by suicide as their female peers, they display markedly higher rates of involvement with alcohol and other drugs, and comprise 95 percent of the young offender population.
Although the need to develop health services that are relevant and meet the needs of young men has previously been identified, much more needs to be done. A report released by Orygen,The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, reveals that the mental health needs of young Australian men are not being well met. While it’s true that many young men experience privilege based on their gender, it is also true that young men face a unique range of problems and barriers related to their mental health.
The implications of young men’s mental health are far-reaching — impacting our communities in the broadest sense. Taking a careful look at the statistics, we see that preventable mental illness drives much of the burden of both disease, and mortality, in young men.
Tragically, young men all too often place themselves, and others, in harm’s way, be that through substance misuse, behaviours associated with anger or violence, or risk-taking. These behaviours are too often normalised for young men. They are frequently ignored or explained away as young men ‘blowing off steam’.
Stigma and societal expectations related to masculinity are key factors in young men’s mental health status. Notions of strength, stoicism and invulnerability remain highly prized by our young men.
– Simon Rice