Research

Are depressed men getting overlooked by mental health clinicians?

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mental healthA study by researchers at the University of Sydney has highlighted that there is an urgent need to change the approach when it comes to treating men with depression, who still account for three quarters of Australia’s suicides.

“A lot more of men now seek help but many aren’t engaging with their treatment and therefore don’t stay as long as they should,” says Zac Seidler, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.

“With available data suggesting many men who commit suicide seek professional help beforehand, this is a critical period in many people’s lives, and one we ought to be getting right,” he adds.

According to researchers, the number of Australian men seeking clinical intervention to deal with depression has increased by approximately 10 per cent in the last 10 years. But the new research found that most mental health clinicians mistakenly assumed clients understood the treatment process. Few gave their clients goals to work towards or outlined skills they could gain to deal with their depression.

“This perceived unstructured approach juxtaposed the action-oriented, functional treatment these men were seeking,” Seidler says.

“It would be more appropriate to use masculine traits like risk- taking and wanting to regain strength to our advantage. Men tend to want an idea of how treatment is going to work from the outset, a structured plan for working towards recovery, the power to gain skills that help them deal with depression and to feel in control of their lives.”

The study, published recently in Australian Psychologist, shows most mental health strategies have a heavier emphasis on unstructured talk therapy.

While offering some short-term benefits, many men participating in his research found a lack of structure and progress to be a waste of time and money. In some cases, they found a ‘talkfest’ had a detrimental effect, making them angrier.

Clinicians need to think more about the processes around delivering treatment like the clinical relationship and communication, rather than the treatments themselves, Seidler’s paper ‘Men in and out of treatment for depression: Strategies for improved engagement’ concludes.

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