Beyond Barriers

Australian males have higher rates of suicide than women, lower rates of mental health literacy and higher levels of associated stigma. Untreated depression and anxiety are significant contributing factors to this. Moreover, men have demonstrated low rates of help-seeking behaviour and numerous barriers to help-seeking, such as stigma.

In 2010, the Australian Government announced the Taking Action To Tackle Suicide initiatives. beyondblue was contracted by the Australian Government to develop a multiplatform health promotion campaign targeting men to improve men’s help-seeking behaviour around anxiety and depression, and ultimately suicide. 

beyondblue subsequently established the Beyond Barriers Strategy to encourage men to take action against depression and anxiety through reducing barriers to seeking support.

Market research project into men’s help-seeking behaviours

In May 2012, beyondblue commissioned Hall & Partners | Open Mind to conduct a market research project into men’s help-seeking behaviours. The research aimed to build upon what is already known about the barriers and motivators shaping men’s help-seeking behaviours, to explore if and how public discourse reinforces the barriers to help-seeking, and how communications can be reframed to encourage behaviour change. The research identified a need to enable men to shift beyond a simple awareness of anxiety and depression, towards greater understanding of the conditions, with a need to focus on an online resource that provided men with three key learnings: know the signs; know the range of treatment options; and develop an action plan.

The outcomes of this research, supported by other studies into men’s help-seeking behaviour, and beyondblue’s review of campaigns internationally, led to beyondblue identifying an opportunity to collaborate with the Colorado Office for Suicide Prevention to produce an ‘Australianised’ version of mantherapy.org. Following several months of development Man Therapy, with its central character of Dr Brian Ironwood, was launched to coincide with Men’s Health Week 2013 as the core component of the Beyond Barriers Strategy.

The Man Therapy campaign 

Man Therapy is a multi-platform campaign (encompassing TV, radio, print and online executions) aimed at raising men aged 30-54’s awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression, and encouraging men experiencing signs and symptoms of depression to take action by visiting the Man Therapy website (mantherapy.org.au). Secondary targets included men: aged 18-29; in outer metropolitan areas; in regional and rural areas; with children; who are unemployed; with substance use problems; and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Through the development of Man Therapy it was recognised that for many groups of men within Australian society, specific strategies and interventions over and above Man Therapy would be required within the Beyond Barriers Strategy.

Beyond Barriers interventions and evaluation

The following interventions were developed within the Strategy by beyondblue, and our partners, to target specific groups of men:

  • Proppa Deadly community radio campaign encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to take action for depression and anxiety (undertaken in partnership with Brisbane Indigenous Media Association)
  • Take Action Before the Blues Take Over campaign aimed at encouraging gay, bisexual and questioning men to take action against depression
  • Resilience in the Face of Change stories for trans men
  • Tune In Now Toolkit, a guide for homelessness support workers to ‘have the conversation’ about anxiety and depression with men experiencing homelessness (undertaken in partnership with Homelessness Australia)

An independent evaluation of the Beyond Barriers Strategy has found that the strategy has been successful. Man Therapy in particular: exceeded the expected campaign reach; been cost effective; and positively changed the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of Australian men aged 30-54 with respect to depression and anxiety.

The projects associated with the Strategy concluded on 30 May 2014 with the delivery of the Evaluation Report.