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Male help-seeking behaviour : why men access and continue with mental health counselling treatment

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posted on 13.01.2017, 01:25 by Meister, Peter
Men’s health is a national concern in Australia in part because men’s morbidity and mortality rates are higher than the women’s. Men’s health has entered public awareness in Australia as well as in US, UK and Europe in recent years because of growing concerns about male’s poor health compared to females. Mental health is the 3rd biggest disease burden in Australia behind the cancers and coronary diseases. Men experience mental health problems as frequently as women and have an almost four times higher rate of suicide in Australia and other developed countries. At the same time men seek help for their mental health problems much less often than women. Men usually delay help-seeking for a very long time and when they eventually access mental health counselling services they often leave treatment quickly. This study investigated the triggers for men to access a mental health service and the factors underpinning their adherence to treatment regimens. In a qualitative, exploratory study, twenty male clients of a mental health counselling service were interviewed, and a grounded theory method was used to analyse the participants’ experiences. Additionally a focus group of mental health counselling professionals from the same service were also interviewed. The reports of the 20 males were then compared with the recounted experiences of professionals with their clients. It emerged that the severity of the men’s mental health or the functional disability is the decisive factor for accessing mental health treatment. This applies independently of prior experiences with mental health issues or mental health services. The study found that men delay help-seeking for a prolonged period, often until they are in a severe crisis, and when they eventually do access a service they do so with great ambivalence. Hence it was concluded that men may benefit from more rapid access to mental health counselling services. Results suggest that if men were educated about mental health and treatment facilities, the stigma could be reduced and male help-seeking could be improved. To ensure their adherence to treatment, specific characteristics of men should be considered. Variables affecting continuation of treatment include influence of others, hope, and the relationship with the counsellor, the perception of progress, counselling methods and costs. The study confirmed that GPs are the most important gatekeepers in the help-seeking process for mental health issues. The study indicates that GPs and other referrers should consider male specific characteristics. The study suggests that men have difficulties in recognising their problems as mental health issues; they have difficulties in talking about their feelings, and underestimate their mental health issues. Therefore referrers ought to be able to detect and diagnose mental health problems even if they are not immediately apparent or acknowledged as such by the male client.


Principal supervisor

Christopher Trotter

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Social Work

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences