Two words you don’t say to men
WE NEED to change the way we think about masculinity.
Mental health experts are trying to turn our idea of the term and what it means around - both in society and in a clinical setting - and steer away from the toxic "man up" culture.
Psychologist Dr Zac Seidler, who has written several research papers on the topic of masculinity, said even the system was failing men because it was still stuck in the traditional stereotypes.
"The system is still stuck in the idea of traditional masculinity and seeing men as one-dimensional beings, rather than being diverse and complex and sensitive," he said.
"Men are more likely to seek help than ever before but it seems the system is not really ready for them. There's still this archaic view men don't show up, and when they do the system isn't ready for them."
As a result, he said men were having a bad experience and dropping out of counselling before they got better.
His research has found after overcoming barriers to accessing care, about one in four men will prematurely drop out of treatment.
Of about 44,000 US, UK, Australian and Canadian men who suicided in 2015, many engaged with a health service in the week prior.
"It misses the mark and they suicide anyway," he said.
"We can't afford that - if they're coming in we need to save them."
Dr Seidler, a researcher at The University of Sydney, said counsellors needed to better respond to this idea and figure out how to leverage masculinity and use it to a man's advantage.
Dr Seidler said seeking help was the most manly thing you can do.
"The idea of manning up should move away from silence to bravery conceptualised as talking up - it means getting out and being open and honest and finding the right people to help you towards being a better man," he said.
"How can we work through what you can shift, with relationships and behaviours, to get you on the road to be man you want to be?
"It's really about taking power into your hands."
Dr Seidler said making it clear men had the power to decide who they wanted to be meant they were not stripped of autonomy and independence, something depression takes from them anyway.
Quite simply he said it was about "getting sh*t done" instead of talking about it.
"Masculinity in the traditional sense means you need to hold everything as close as possible because with weakness comes judgment and with judgment comes losing your man card," he said.
"But those man cards will come thick and fast because you'll live better, have better relationships and do better at your job.
"If you're full functioning, open and transparent you will be the best version of yourself."
Dr Seidler said reshaping masculinity meant acknowledging men could coexist in a complex way and did not need to apologise for that.
What he means by that is a man being able to watch a Disney movie with the kids and cry but then go play a game of footy.
"It needs to be the idea you're working towards self betterment, not keeping sh*t to yourself for the sake of it," he said.
"I say I'm not the one fixing this - it's on you mate.
"They're in a driving seat and I'm the one navigating."
If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.