3 April 2020

Make the call.

A public service announcement to all men: We need to reset
Mental Health

"The World Health Organisation declared the global outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic barely more than two weeks ago.
As new social distancing restrictions and forced isolation come into effect across the country, it’s becoming clearer what the broader socio-economic ramifications triggered by this pandemic are likely to be: a perfect storm for potentially devastating effects on men’s mental health and wellbeing.
This week, tens of thousands were told they would not be able to return to work and, at the same time, local pubs, clubs and gyms will also be closed for several months.
Research tells us that men rely heavily on their work to fulfil a sense of achievement and self-worth. And while we may have hoped that the trope of being a ‘provider’ died with Don Draper, we know that this expectation still rings true for many men.
We also know that men typically rely on ‘instrumental’ support to look after their mates. From going for a beer to playing footy on the weekend, many men are more comfortable checking in with one another while they take part in an activity, compared to talking about their worries on the phone for hours.
Neither form of empathy is better than the other. Yet what we are faced with now is the rapid extinguishing of a familiar way of life that saw men easily connecting and supporting each other.
Suicide in men is uniquely predicted by risk factors like unemployment, social isolation, financial distress and relationship breakdown. Right now, a number of these factors are either already here or are on the horizon for a huge number of men, while at the same time, their usual avenues of contact and connection are slipping away.
What we’re left with is a breeding ground for male despair. If we are to proactively intervene in reducing an already unacceptably high male suicide rate, we need a Plan B. And fast.
If guys are going to stay afloat in coming months this pandemic needs to trigger a rapid revolution in modern masculinity. Falling back on the comfortable masculine norms of skirting around issues and talking ‘shoulder to shoulder’ are just not tenable in the near future. We need to adapt.
Statistics reliably show that men have fewer close friends than women and that these numbers steeply drop-off as guys reach fatherhood and head into retirement. As dads are faced with the prospect of working from home surrounded by kids, and older men can’t go out to their local footy club for some banter, we’ll have to make do with what we have. Consider it a survival kit for mateship in the time of COVID-19.

“Men need to make the call. They need to make the call to look after themselves and those around them."

Men need to make the call. They need to make the call to look after themselves and those around them. That means finding a productive outlet for the inevitable anger and frustration at the changes in your daily life. That means putting your energy into home renos, cleaning or looking after the kids to ease the pressure on your partner, who might be struggling with their own monumental balancing act. That means checking in with those more vulnerable, those less fortunate in your community, to see where you can lend a hand. That means accepting that while there might not be a solution for a problem just yet, there’s still a way to utilise your strengths to build up those around you. Together, let’s make the best of a shit situation.
Thanks to modern tech, we can also bring that ‘doing’ style of support to social distancing. We can build things together while on the phone or laptop, from puzzles to cabinets. We can take this opportunity to embrace our inner child and do things we’ve never done before. There are plenty of guys out there setting up a happy hour once a week to call up all of their mates, have a beer and shoot the breeze. I’ve heard of long-lost friends suddenly reconnecting on social media and rekindling a mateship.
Men need to make the call. There is no excuse for not calling your mate if he just lost his job. While you probably can’t get it back for him, and you might not be able to give him a loan right now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in. You don’t need to know what to say; as uncomfortable as it might be, it’s fine not to have all the answers. Just let him know you hear him, you’re with him, and you’ll get through this together.
It’ll go a long way, not only for him, but for your own sanity. Don’t expect he doesn’t want to be bothered, or that he’s probably better off not talking about it. Assume the opposite.
Don’t let stubbornness, fear or discomfort hold you back. This isn’t the time for a stiff upper lip, it’s a time to rally together. Loneliness and true isolation can be more painful and long lasting than any virus ever will be, but comradery is the best antidote for uncertainty. That’s why those men who go to war come back with stories not of personal accomplishment, but of the rich bonds they forged with fellow soldiers. 
Men, just make the call."
Dr Zac Seidler, Global Director of Mental Health Training at Movember

Staying socially connected is more important than ever. For tips, check out: movember.com/mens-health/we-need-to-ask