An Orygen study has identified ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of men in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges Shire, including community-based programs and engaging with health care providers.
The Human Code project, led by Orygen and supported by the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network and VicHealth through the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Trial Site, aimed to better understand how traditional and outdated masculine stereotypes were impacting the attitudes and behaviours of men and boys in the Macedon Ranges.
Associate Professor Simon Rice, who led the study, said these stereotypes could idealise traits such as toughness, dominance, self-reliance, and the restriction of emotion for many men.
“They can also have an impact on issues like suicide rates, incidence of family violence and alcohol use-related harm,” he said.
“This research aimed to better understand the who, when, and why of these behaviours, so that we can develop tailored prevention approaches specific to Macedon Ranges communities.”
The study found almost half of men surveyed thought that boys and men in the Macedon Ranges were not comfortable seeking out health services when they needed them.
“We found that one in five men indicated experiencing shame in asking for help,” Associate Professor Rice said. “Over half of men agreed that boys and men wouldn’t be comfortable talking about their mental health before they reach a breaking point.
“A perception remains for some men that they must always solve their own problems and cannot talk about their emotions, leading to delays in reaching out for help when experiencing distress.”
The findings were based on survey results from 376 people in the local community (over half of these male), along with one-on-one interviews with 30 local men. Focus groups were also conducted with key groups working with men and boys in the Macedon Ranges.
The study also found nearly one-third of all men and almost half of young men surveyed experienced high levels of loneliness and social isolation.
Men also reported that gender roles that placed pressure on them to be the main breadwinner could sometimes have negative impacts on their wellbeing.
Based on the community feedback, the study has made several recommendations to improve men’s mental health and wellbeing in the Macedon Ranges, including:
- introduce community-based programs such as Men’s Sheds or dads’ groups to better connect men;
- engage with schools and workplaces and community sporting clubs to educate and engage men with mental health knowledge and where to seek help;
- create resources to encourage men to have conversations about mental health and suicide; and
- engage with health service providers to promote male-friendly practice and help increase awareness about services.
The study findings and recommendations are currently being shared with the community and will inform phase two of the project led by Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health.
Jeremy Hearne, General Manager, Building Healthy Communities at Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health said:
“We now have the information we need to start a genuine conversation with the community on the impact traditional masculine stereotypes can have on the health of men and boys.
“Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health look forward to working alongside local people to design activities that are driven by and are meaningful to the local community.”
To find out more about phase two of The Human Code email [email protected]
You can also download the full Human Code Report here.