Men and mental health

Men in the target group of Ballarat Men’s Mental Health are, by definition, hard to engage. 

They have told us that mental health and community services don’t always work together. Some expressed a lack of hope that services can meet their needs, based on previous experiences.

Men are often reluctant to seek medical advice and/or treatment and are uncomfortable with the traditional health system. Men, particularly the 20-50 age group, tend not to have a trusted relationship with health professionals. Instead, men are more likely to act on advice from friends, family and peers.

Because of this reluctance, men tend to have low levels of health literacy and of routine check-ups and preventative screening. There is also a strong link between poor mental health and other chronic physical health problems.

Men in Ballarat commit suicide at a rate eight times higher than women. The suicide rate for men in Ballarat is substantially higher than Bendigo or Geelong, is in the top quartile (65%) for the state and almost twice the rate of Melbourne. Up to 50% of people in rural and regional Victoria who completed suicide had no contact with any health professional in the preceding six months.

Evidence matters!

Over the past several years we have consulted widely with men and their families with lived experience, as well as with local mental health practitioners and other health-related entities in the Ballarat community. These consultations resulted in valuable data and evidence to support the design and development of a cohesive service that meets the specific needs of men – and, in particular – men in the Ballarat community. We commissioned Australian Catholic University (ACU) to analyse our data and they found that:
1.
Men have poorer health outcomes than women, particularly around mental health and high suicide rates. This negatively impacts the lives of their carers and families
2.
The male suicide rate in Ballarat is 65% higher than the state average and almost double that of metropolitan Melbourne. It is also substantially higher than comparable regional areas; Bendigo and Geelong.
3.
Family violence rates are higher in Ballarat than in comparable regional areas. This has a direct negative impact on the men involved and their families.
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During our research, we spoke to many local men who perceive mental health services as unresponsive to their needs and their situation. Services are often poorly linked and integrated, exacerbating the negative correlation between poor mental health and other chronic physical health problems.

Men have told us they find it really hard to navigate the mental health system, particularly when they are struggling. Some simply cannot afford to pay for the care they need.

Royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system

Victoria’s mental health system doesn’t always meet the needs of service users in general – and of men in particular. Government recognition of this resulted in the establishment of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

In early 2021 it released its report:

“…it is important to recognise that the (Mental Health) system is not comprehensive—there are service gaps, insufficient services to meet demand, and inequities in who can access services. There is also insufficient integration between services in the mental health system and broader health, social and community services.”

“…although Victoria’s mental health system may have some features of a stepped care model, there are large gaps between different types of services—meaning that consumers frequently experience poorly coordinated and discontinuous care.”

What about women’s mental health?

BMMH hopes to extend its services to women, but for the moment we are focused solely on the overwhelming need to support men in the Ballarat region who are experiencing mental health issues and/or contemplating suicide.

In the meantime we plan to establish relationships with women’s support groups so we can collaborate on minimising the ‘ripple effect’ of mental health issues among families, friends and other loved ones.

Tragically, there are many people in the Ballarat region who have direct and indirect experience of suicide: up to 135 people, including family members, friends, colleagues and associates, can be affected by each suicide death (source Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System 2021).

Thank you for your interest in Ballarat Men’s Mental Health. Our service is now operational.
Contact us at info@ballaratmmh.com.au, or leave a confidential message at BMMH Triage: 0493 247 340

If you are seeking immediate assistance or advice regarding a Mental Health issue please contact either Life Line on 13 11 14 or Ballarat Health Services Mental Health Line on 1300 247 647. Both these services are available 24 hours a day. In an emergency please call 000.