Warning: This article deals with the topic of men’s mental health and suicide. It may be triggering for some. If you or someone you love is in need of support, help is available at Beyond Blue, Lifeline (13 11 14) and MensLine Australia (1300 789 978). If you’re in an emergency, please call 000.
As of May 24, the ABC dropped a new drama series titled In Limbo. The show stars Ryan Corr and Bob Morley, and it centres on the story of Charlie (Corr), who is rocked by the sudden death of his best friend Nate (Morley) – who proceeds to haunt him afterwards. At the surface, the story might sound like a bit of a laugh, but the heart of the series is deep, and it looks openly at the very serious topic of men’s mental health.
The series is gaining attention for being an “exquisite” watch, and the message is one that deserves more attention, so we spoke with Dr Zac Seidler, the clinical psychologist who worked on the series, about men’s mental health and the sticky taboos that continue to impact this issue.
Here’s what he had to say.
Men’s mental health: What can we do better?
Taboos still surround men and mental health
While conversations around mental health are becoming increasingly common, and open, there remain some barriers to men accessing the benefits of this.
Dr Seidler shared that society’s approach to men’s mental health can be lacking, but that there is also a lot of change happening that’s quite encouraging.
“I think that society continues to demand that guys consider mental health a risqué, or taboo topic,” Dr Seidler shared.
“But on the ground, they [men] keep challenging this stereotype by showing up in droves for support. It looks and sounds different to what ‘vulnerability’ might be expected to be, it doesn’t always come with a neat bow on top, but men are telling us loud and clear that this is something they care about.”
Where we can do better, however, is how we respond to the men in our lives who are calling out for support, he said.
“If anything, the challenge we are facing is that we have spent decades telling men to open up, to talk more, to reach out, and we’re starting to understand that it’s often falling on deaf ears. We need to upskill our community members, friends, family, to be able to better respond to guys in distress…”
Who is this impacting most?
While mental health struggles certainly do not discriminate, there are some groups of men who are more likely to be impacted here. We asked Dr Seidler for trends on which groups of men are more likely to experience troubles with their mental health, so you can keep in mind there may be people in your life you could check in on.
“Despite endless hard work of organisations to shine a light on male suicide and try to reduce the staggering rate of men taking their own lives each day in this country (seven men a day, on average), it is an uphill, complex battle we are fighting,” Dr Seilder shared.
“Nonetheless, there are certain groups we should be focusing our efforts on, and it’s often those who are overlooked and misunderstood. From an age perspective, it’s actually middle-aged guys who have the highest rising rates of suicide, and this is often driven by what we call situational stressors like relationship breakdown, financial distress or unemployment. Being in a marginalised group, like [a] sexual minority (gay and trans men) or from regional or rural areas, also confers more risk,” he explained.
What are the most effective tools we can use when it comes to men’s mental health?
While there are a number of support services available, like those we’ve listed at the beginning of this article, Dr Seidler shared that one of the best tools we have is upskilling those who are interacting with men doing it tough.
“We need to empower those on the ground, doing the heavy lifting in communities, to know how to react and respond to men in crisis,” he said.
“Tools like ‘Movember Conversations’ [an interactive tool guiding you on tricky chats] start to upskill those who live, love and work with men, to know how to have conversations with guys they are worried about, what to say and when.”
It’s also worth noting that folks can set up as many as 10 rebated consultations with a psychologist through the My Mental Health Treatment Plan, if you’re seeking support and are worried about cost.
The benefits of a show like In Limbo
Now, it’s important to note that no two situations are the same. But showcasing honest portrayals of mental health journeys for different men can be incredibly powerful. Here’s what Dr Seidler had to say about that.
“In Limbo shows the reality of men’s mental health. It is messy, it’s funny and chaotic, [and] it’s happening all over our society every day from the rich and famous to your average construction worker; it doesn’t discriminate. But most importantly, what In Limbo does is it gives hope; it shows the importance of mateship in looking after each other, and we can never underestimate the power of social connection to get guys out of tough times.”
So educate yourself on how to have those tough conversations. Reach out to a mate who you think might be struggling. And continue to show up for the people you love; it could make a world of difference.
All episodes of In Limbo are now available to stream on ABC iview. The series airs Wednesdays at 9:00 pm on ABC TV.
Dr Zac Seidler is a clinical psychologist, researcher and leading men’s mental health expert. He was part of the In Limbo mental health advisory board and was the on-set psychologist, and currently holds dual roles as Director of Mental Health Training at Movember and Senior Research Fellow with Orygen at the University of Melbourne.
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