October 09, 2023

Many men in New Zealand find it tough to talk about mental health issues.

We know that because Kiwi males reported lower rates of depression and anxiety than females but accounted for more than three-quarters of suspected suicides in New Zealand last year.

Ministry of Health figures show that of the 607 suspected suicides in 2021, 472 were men and 135 were women.

If you are a man struggling with anxiety or depression or somebody that wants to support a partner, father, son, mate or colleague, there are loads of online resources and support groups that can help.

Feeling down?

One in eight New Zealand men will experience serious depression during their lifetime. The Mental Health Foundation’s Men and Depression pamphlet provides useful information on what depression is, its symptoms, the treatment options available, self-help tips, and how to get help.

It has a long list of possible signs of depression – here are just a few

  • Feeling tired, having no energy
  • Feeling irritable, restless or ‘on edge’
  • Anger and hostility towards others
  • Feeling isolated and withdrawing from whānau and friends
  • Losing interest in work, family/whānau and things you used to enjoy
  • Sleeping difficulties – difficulty getting to sleep, waking too early in the morning, waking through the night or oversleeping
  • Headaches, other aches and pains or digestive issues
  • Loss of interest in sex or sexual performance
  • Drinking or using drugs too much
  • Risky or reckless behaviour, such as dangerous driving
  • Feeling dejected, empty or numb, often first thing in the morning
  • Thoughts of suicide

 When it comes to getting help, the Mental Health Foundation recommends starting with your GP or Māori hauora/health provider. Once you have had a check up to rule out whether these issues are caused by physical health problems, your health provider can guide you to get the help and support you need.

The Men’s Health Week Te Wiki Hauora Tāne website lists some steps you can take to lift your mood and help your recovery.

  • Talk to someone: talking with someone you trust about how you are feeling can help you feel less alone. Sometimes we need the view of a friend or loved one to see what we are putting out there.
  • Eat well. The link between food and mood is well-known: what you eat affects your mental wellbeing. You can up your mental wellbeing by making changes to your diet, and luckily, the same eating habits that keep you mentally well are those that support your physical health too. A healthy diet is such a big part of making you feel good, and even making great food can be uplifting.
  • Stay physically active. The powerful link between body and mental health means exercise is one part of your recovery that you can totally control. Start small but make it regular, get outside more, make better habits.
  • Alcohol and other recreational drugs need to be avoided as they won’t make you better. Avoiding these substances, especially if they are part of the problem, will help you feel better sooner.
  • Stay connected to the people who you love and who matter. Build on these whānau and friend links, fall back on them, but keep them.
  • Remember that asking for and getting help is a sign of strength, courage, kaha.

 There are also some great resources for men at depression.org.nz

 You are not alone

There are men throughout New Zealand dealing with mental health issues and it can be useful to talk to someone who understands what you are going through.

 Essentially men.net lists some great support networks around the country. But if sitting around talking isn’t your thing, joining a local Menzshed group might be a good way to connect and chat with other men while carrying out practical tasks. Many Menzshed groups invite local health professionals to give talks about health issues impacting men.

There are also several websites where men share their stories online. 

Aotearoa NZ Tough Talk provides short documentaries and tools focused on men’s mental wellbeing. Men share how they improved their wellbeing and how they have taken a fresh look at how men are taught to think and behave in New Zealand, how to be vulnerable, mindfulness and finding a sense of purpose. 

Depression.org.nz also has video stories that can give strength and hope to men going through a tough time. 

Tackling important conversations with men in your life
If you are concerned that a man you know may be struggling with mental health issues, the NZ Movember site has some great tips on starting a conversation

You can’t fix someone else’s problems, but you can be there for them. Sometimes listening is the most helpful thing you can do. You won’t make things worse by asking someone how they’re doing.

There is also a fantastic interactive tool that can help you prepare and practice having those tough conversations.

Where to get help in a crisis 

Lifeline has health professionals and highly trained volunteers answering calls on its helpline 24 hours a day. Call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354) or send a text to HELP (4357).

If you, or someone you know, may be thinking about suicide, call the Suicide Crisis Helpline for support on 0508 828 865. 

Depression.org.nz also has a helpline available 24 hours a day – call 0800 111 757 or text 4202.

This blog is part of our Men’s Health Month Series.