Get the guy talking

How do you best approach your mate who may be doing it tough? In Men’s Health Week, we look at how to have the conversation.

While it is a generalisation, it’s widely perceived that men have a different comfort zone for opening up and talking about their feelings. Men’s expression of emotions and attitude to seeking help is seen as different than that of women (by both men and women). In particular, research has found that while there is more acceptance of mental health issues at a community level, many men have difficulty talking about depression or anxiety at a personal level. Research by Beyond Blue found that key barriers for men are self-stigma, feeling ill-equipped to deal with the topic of mental health, a need for control, a lack of social support and a preference for action over introspection. That point of action is often delayed until crisis point.

Set it up

If you are worried about a man or a mate in your life, finding the right time and approach can be tricky. Men’s Health Line tips for better conversations with men can help you to build your game plan. Their tips are:

  • Be direct. Frame the conversation in terms of its goal.
  • Give space. Offer help but then leave him to take up the offer when it suits him.
  • Keep it casual and low intensity. It may take a few short talks, rather than one epic conversation, to get him to open up.
  • Talk whilst doing another activity.
  • Adopt a more casual ‘side by side’ stance rather than face to face.
  • Use empowering language, rather than the language of failure.

Switch it up

Lifeline WA knows that positive and open-ended language can guide a more successful conversation with anyone, but perhaps particularly with men. The guides and resources provided by R U OK may be of interest to you. They suggest that anyone considering talking to their mate, brother, uncle, dad, son, or friend can use this to help them start a conversation. Lifeline WA has put together a quick cheat sheet on how to use more positive language to talk to your friend.

You are always sad and depressed lately.You don’t seem yourself lately… everything ok?
What’s wrong with you?Are you tracking okay at the moment?
I know exactly what you are going through!When I was going through a difficult time, I tried…
Look on the bright side.You are not alone. Thank you for telling me.
Can you start looking after yourself?What can I do to help?
You should go see a psychologist!It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I’m happy to help you to find the right person to talk to.
You can’t keep avoiding me.I am here when you are ready to talk.
You are stronger than this.There is strength in reaching out.
This needs to stop.What do you think would help? I can do this…
I think you have a problem with depression.We will get through this together mate.
Cheer up!This won’t last forever, and I am here to help.
Well, let’s leave it at that.Let’s chat about this again next week…

Take action and give it a go

These tough conversations can’t be scripted, and it may not go to plan. The goal is to be genuine rather than getting it perfect. You can be honest if you’re not sure what to do next. Showing that you care and being there for them in the moment can be the most helpful thing you can do.

For insight into men’s mental health

Man Up is a three-part documentary series backed by Movember that aims to get to the bottom of the male suicide crisis. You can watch this informative and powerful series here.

If you’re worried he’s thinking about suicide

It’s important to ask directly. You can find basic tips here. It is recommended that you seek out further support.

For more information on what you can do if you think your mate might be thinking about suicide, please read

You can call Lifeline for support and advice on 13 11 14.

Image Credit: Photo by NONRESIDENT on Unsplash