Research projects

Doing what comes naturally: Investigation of positive self-help strategies used by men to prevent depression and suicide

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Proudly supported by The Movember Foundation.

Principal researchers

Associate Professor Judy Proudfoot1
Professor Helen Christensen1
Mr Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic2
Professor Kay Wilhelm2

Institution

1 Black Dog Institute
2 School of Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital and University of NSW

Funding

$286,428

Award type

beyondblue National Priority Driven Research Program

Project duration year

2014

Main messages 

Men were recruited to a multi-phase research project investigating their use of positive coping strategies to prevent and manage the development of feeling flat, down, or depressed. Men from around Australia participated, and in total 770 men were recruited across three phases of research.

The main messages arising from the study are as follows: 

  • Men use a broad range of positive coping strategies and appear to have several on stand-by to use as necessary. 
  • Men actively engage with their mental health, through monitoring symptoms, engaging in activities to keep themselves feeling good, acknowledging signs of feeling down, proactively responding to problems with the potential to worsen their mood, and through making conscious choices about when to take action. 
  • Men make clear distinctions between prevention and management when it comes to their mental health. 
  • Good prevention is multifaceted, personal and characterised by having a routine which incorporates keeping busy, social connections, acceptance of a range of feelings, maintenance of physical health and regular engagement with enjoyable activities. 
  • Good management builds on prevention by acknowledging changes in mood and deploying additional resources to solve or mitigate problems that can impact negatively on mood. This includes taking time out when needed, talking to others and finding ways to take a new perspective on problems.
  • The positive coping strategies used by men varied according to general health, severity of depression, history of depression, and psychological resilience. In general, those in poorer health or with lower psychological resilience used fewer strategies. 
  • The men who participated in the study were particularly open to using many different strategies (e.g. having a mentor, practicing meditation, etc.) and advocated the importance of challenging traditional notions of ‘masculinity’ to achieve good mental health (e.g. talking to others about feeling down or needing help). 
  • Men reported being interested in using online interventions via their mobile phones, tablets, or computers and appeared to enjoy monitoring their symptoms, moods or behaviours. In particular, monitoring motivation seems be particularly salient for men with depression. myCompass may be a useful tool for depressed men to use in the future. 
  • Continuing to engage men in online programs is crucial and there may be a tendency for men to drop out of using these programs at various stages, which future research will need to understand and address. 
  • There is still considerable need to educate men about suicide: what contributes to suicide, how to intervene or support a suicidal person and potential strategies to use when feeling particularly distressed or facing a crisis.