Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre
Resources For Men and Mental Health

Helping men to manage their mental health in an effective way requires some specific knowledge of how to engage with men in a non-threatening and positive manner. These programs and resources provide some examples of ways to become more effective in meeting the mental health needs of men and boys within programs and services contexts.

Stepping into the minefield of digital mental health Apps

The research and expert comment available on the issue:

Apps With Maps - Anxiety and Depression Mobile Apps With Evidence-Based Frameworks: Systematic Search of Major App Stores

Conclusions: The current proportion of apps developed using evidence-based frameworks is unacceptably low, and those without tested frameworks may be ineffective, or worse, pose a risk of harm to users. Future research should establish what other factors work in conjunction with evidence-based frameworks to produce efficacious mental health apps.

Marshall JM, Dunstan DA, Bartik W. Apps With Maps-Anxiety and Depression Mobile Apps With Evidence-Based Frameworks: Systematic Search of Major App Stores. JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Jun 24;7(6):e16525. doi: 10.2196/16525. PMID: 32579127; PMCID: PMC7381031. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32579127/

Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment

This new era of mental health technology offers great opportunities but also raises a number of concerns. Tackling potential problems will be an important part of making sure new apps provide benefits without causing harm. That is why the mental health community and software developers are focusing on:

  • Effectiveness: The biggest concern with technological interventions is obtaining scientific evidence that they work and that they work as well as traditional methods.
  • For whom and for what: Another concern is understanding if apps work for all people and for all mental health conditions.
  • Privacy: Apps deal with very sensitive personal information so app makers need to be able to guarantee privacy for app users.
  • Guidance: There are no industry-wide standards to help consumers know if an app or other mobile technology is proven effective.
  • Regulation: The question of who will or should regulate mental health technology and the data it generates needs to be answered.
  • Overselling: There is some concern that if an app or program promises more than it delivers, consumers may turn away from other, more effective therapies.

The National Institute of Mental Health (USA - Last Revised: September 2019) Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/technology-and-the-future-of-mental-health-treatment/index.shtml

Mental Health Messages in Prominent Mental Health Apps

CONCLUSIONS Mental health apps may promote medicalization of normal mental states and imply individual responsibility for mental well-being. Within the health care clinician-patient relationship, such messages should be challenged, where appropriate, to prevent overdiagnosis and ensure supportive health care where needed

Parker, L., Bero, L., Gillies, D., Raven, M., Mintzes, B., Jureidini, J., & Grundy, Q. (2018). Mental Health Messages in Prominent Mental Health Apps. The Annals Of Family Medicine16(4), 338-342. doi: 10.1370/afm.2260 https://www.annfammed.org/content/annalsfm/16/4/338.full.pdf

Clinical or gimmickal: The use and effectiveness of mobile mental health apps for treating anxiety and depression

Conclusion: Research into the effectiveness of mental health apps is lacking, and the majority have no evidence of efficacy. Clinicians need to be aware of what apps have such evidence and should exercise caution when recommending apps to patients.

Clinical or gimmickal: The use and effectiveness of mobile mental health apps for treating anxiety and depression Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2020, Vol. 54(1) 20–

28 DOI: 10.1177/0004867419876700  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0004867419876700

Standalone smartphone apps for mental health—a systematic review and meta-analysis

Excerpt from Abstract

Although some trials showed potential of apps targeting mental health symptoms, using smartphone apps as standalone psychological interventions cannot be recommended based on the current level of evidence.

Weisel, K., Fuhrmann, L., Berking, M., Baumeister, H., Cuijpers, P., & Ebert, D. (2019). Standalone smartphone apps for mental health—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Npj Digital Medicine, 2(1). doi: 10.1038/s41746-019-0188-8

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41746-019-0188-8

The "Hot Potato" of Mental Health App Regulation: A Critical Case Study of the Australian Policy Arena

Implications for policy makers

There are gaps in the regulatory framework for health apps, at least partly because the different sectors involved (medical device, advertising, finance, media content, privacy) are relatively siloed, with no single sector holding comprehensive oversight.

There is a lack of regulatory focus on consumer protection for app users, with regulation instead concentrating on reducing burdens of consumer choice.

Regulatory policies tend to ignore regulatory responsibilities of commercial app stores, which serve as distributers, even though the app stores arguably wield more power in the health app arena than policymakers and individual developers.

Policy-makers in different sectors should work together to develop an overarching regulatory framework for health apps, with a focus on consumer protection.

Governments should put pressure on commercial app stores to change practices in favour of protecting consumer privacy and safety.

Implications for the public

Consumers should be aware that the current regulatory framework is inadequate, meaning that some publicly available health apps may harm their health, finances or privacy. Consumers and advocacy groups should lobby governments and industry for changes in legislation and industry practices that better supports consumer privacy and health safety.

Parker, L., Bero, L., Gillies, D., Raven, M., & Grundy, Q. (2018). The "Hot Potato" of Mental Health App Regulation: A Critical Case Study of the Australian Policy Arena. International Journal of Health Policy and Management (IJHPM)8(3), 168-176. https://www.ijhpm.com/article_3576_c193c1581dab865d02c2b0ff2e863a45.pdf

Smartphones in mental health: a critical review of background issues, current status and future concerns

Abstract

There has been increasing interest in the use of smartphone applications (apps) and other consumer technology in mental health care for a number of years. However, the vision of data from apps seamlessly returned to, and integrated in, the electronic medical record (EMR) to assist both psychiatrists and patients has not been widely achieved, due in part to complex issues involved in the use of smartphone and other consumer technology in psychiatry. These issues include consumer technology usage, clinical utility, commercialization, and evolving consumer technology. Technological, legal and commercial issues, as well as medical issues, will determine the role of consumer technology in psychiatry. 

Bauer, M., Glenn, T., Geddes, J., Gitlin, M., Grof, P., & Kessing, L. et al. (2020). Smartphones in mental health: a critical review of background issues, current status and future concerns. International Journal Of Bipolar Disorders8(1). doi: 10.1186/s40345-019-0164-https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40345-019-0164-x

Mental Health Messages in Prominent Mental Health Apps

CONCLUSIONS Mental health apps may promote medicalization of normal mental states and imply individual responsibility for mental well-being. Within the health care clinician-patient relationship, such messages should be challenged, where appropriate, to prevent overdiagnosis and ensure supportive health care where needed

Parker, L., Bero, L., Gillies, D., Raven, M., Mintzes, B., Jureidini, J., & Grundy, Q. (2018). Mental Health Messages in Prominent Mental Health Apps. The Annals Of Family Medicine16(4), 338-342. doi: 10.1370/afm.2260 https://www.annfammed.org/content/annalsfm/16/4/338.full.pdf

Suicide prevention and depression apps’ suicide risk assessment and management: a systematic assessment of adherence to clinical guidelines

Conclusions

Non-existent or inaccurate suicide crisis helpline phone numbers were provided by mental health apps downloaded more than 2 million times. Only five out of 69 depression and suicide prevention apps offered all six evidence-based suicide prevention strategies. This demonstrates a failure of Apple and Google app stores, and the health app industry in self-governance, and quality and safety assurance. Governance levels should be stratified by the risks and benefits to users of the app, such as when suicide prevention advice is provided.

Martinengo, L., Van Galen, L., Lum, E. et al. Suicide prevention and depression apps’ suicide risk assessment and management: a systematic assessment of adherence to clinical guidelines. BMC Med 17, 231 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1461-z https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-019-1461-z#citeas

‘Help from the App Store?’

Excerpt: 

However, when considering using apps for mental health, there are also potential pitfalls. Disadvantages include technical aspects of delivery, such as screen size, battery life, system updates, technology requirements, as well as usage patterns, such as frequent but brief daily smartphone interactions, attentional competition between apps, short app lifespans, non-private settings, and data-security concerns.15,16,17

Terhorst, Y., Rathner, E. -M., Baumeister, H. & Sander, L. ‘Help from the App Store?’: a systematic review of depression apps in German app stores. Verhaltenstherapie https://doi.org/10.1159/000481692 (2018).

Investigating Country Differences in Mobile App User Behavior and Challenges for Software Engineering 

Excerpt: 

There have also been previous systematic and meta-analytic disorder-specific examinations of efficacy, which found small effects for reductions in total anxiety scores from smartphone interventions compared to control conditions (g = 0.33, 95%CI 0.17–0.48, P < 0.01)20 and small effects for reductions in depressive symptoms from smartphone apps compared to control conditions (g = 0.38, 95%CI 0.24–0.52, P < 0.001).21 However, in both reviews, studies were included which did not primarily target depression or anxiety, including apps for memory training and attentional control, so that the effect of apps designed for anxiety and depression remains unclear, as well as the effect of apps individuals explicitly seek as treatment for a specific psychological disorder.

Lim, S., Bentley, P., Kanakam, N., Ishikawa, F., & Honiden, S. (2015). Investigating Country Differences in Mobile App User Behavior and Challenges for Software Engineering. IEEE Transactions On Software Engineering41(1), 40-64. doi: 10.1109/tse.2014.2360674

Experts warn on data security in health and fitness apps

Excerpt:

Users of mobile health and fitness apps should not assume that any of their data is private or protected, says a report by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit privacy group based in San Diego, California.1 For the report the group’s researchers studied the privacy policies and protections of 43 popular health and fitness apps, including apps that allow users to enter information about their diet, daily exercise routines, and medical and mental health conditions; to look up disease and drug information; and to share their information with friends through the app, a website, or through social media sites such as Facebook

McCarthy, M. Experts warn on data security in health and fitness apps. BMJ 347, 57216 (2013). https://search.proquest.com/openview/4b1d76edb55b01a17102dc8a53039eb2/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2043523

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Impact of COVID restrictions on men’s mental health services

Mental health services in Australia have faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pan- demic in adopting the new changes to reach service users. The rapid changes in the situation and surge in the number of people seeking help or in crisis have led services to use many strategies which they would not have considered in normal situations. The services working with men were especially experiencing the difficulty in fulfilling the needs of their clients as the evidence shows that Australian men’s help seeking behaviour is lower than women. 

Read the full article here. 

Guntuku S, Hall N, Poole G. Impact of COVID-19 restrictions on men’s mental health services in Australia. Mens Health J.

2020; 4(1): e22.

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Understanding the Male Menopause and Mental Health

You’ve probably heard of the menopause in women, but did you know men go through a similar hormonal change as they age? The male menopause, or andropause, is often triggered when men reach their 40s.

In fact, as many as 30% of men can expect some sort of physical change to their bodies when they reach this age. But with such little exposure to information, this sudden shift in mental attitude and physical ability can come as a real shock.

In this guide, we’ll discuss all aspects of the male menopause. From spotting the early signs, to finding out what you can do to alleviate the symptoms, find out what you can do to tackle the challenges of the andropause. Read the full information here

Find a doctor on Healthy Male website

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Dual Diagnosis: Alcoholism & Depression

The Relationship Between Abuse & Depression

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent throughout the United States — in fact, approximately 14.4 million American adults suffered from this condition in 2018.1 Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to serious physical and mental health problems, particularly depression.

Alcohol abuse may exacerbate symptoms of depression, and depressive symptoms may aggravate alcohol abuse — leading to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. If you struggle with either of these conditions, help is available through residential treatment, medication, therapy, and other forms of care specially designed for co-occurring AUD and depression. Read the full text here.

Ask for Help: 

Alcohol and Drug Foundation1300 858 584 

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Men might be more are at risk of suicide after separation.

Why Might Men Be More at Risk of Suicide After a Relationship Breakdown? Sociological Insights (Scourfield and Rhinnon, 2015)
Relationship breakdown constitutes a major risk factor for suicide ideation and completion. Although no definitive conclusion can be reached about a gender differential in susceptibility to this factor, several studies have identified that there is an elevated risk factor in men following divorce and separation. This article presents an overview of sociological explanations that may be employed to understand this phenomenon. There is discussion of the changing nature of intimacy, men's loss of honor, marriage as a more positive experience for men than for women, control in relationships, the increasing importance of the care of children for men, and men's social networks. The article concludes with possible implications for policy and practice. View full text here.
Reference: Scourfield, J., & Evans, R. (2015). Why Might Men Be More at Risk of Suicide After a Relationship Breakdown? Sociological Insights. American journal of men's health9(5), 380–384.

Emergency Contcat & Crisis support
If someone’s life is in danger or there is an immediate risk of harm, call 000.
Suicide Call Back Service: 
Call 1300 659 467

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Mental Health Help-Seeking Behaviours for Male Students

Improving Mental Health Help-Seeking Behaviours for Male Students: A Framework for Developing a Complex Intervention - by Ilyas Sagar-Ouriaghli et al.,

Men are less likely to seek help for mental health difficulties and this process is often used to help explain the disproportionally higher suicide rates compared to women. Furthermore, university students are often regarded as a vulnerable population group with a lower propensity to seek help. Thus, male students are a very high-risk group that is even more reluctant to seek help for mental health difficulties, placing them at high risk of suicide. Often, student mental health problems are highlighted in the media, but very few evidence-based solutions specifically designed for male students exist. The current paper seeks to provide a comprehensive framework about how to better design mental health interventions that seek to improve male students’ willingness to access psychological support. Read the full article here. 

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World Mental Health Day - 2019

1 IN 5 AUSTRALIANS ARE AFFECTED BY MENTAL ILLNESS, YET MANY DON’T SEEK HELP BECAUSE OF STIGMA.

WE CAN ALL DO SOMETHING TO HELP SHED A MORE POSITIVE LIGHT ON MENTAL HEALTH.

According to the last National Survey of mental health and wellbeing:

  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to have experienced substance use disorders (7.0% compared with 3.3%)
  • Men are more likely to experience mental disorders in all three categories (e.g. having anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse) than women (0.8% compared with 0.6%)

What do these statistics tell you about men’s mental health? It is time for us to re-think our fundamental approach to the tragedy of suicide, and to pursue a bold and determined new course of action. The "situational approach to suicide prevention" is exactly that. 

Australian Men's Health Forum has come up with 10 conversation topics to help get people talking about men’s mental health.They open with a statement or question about men’s health, with some background information to help you take the conversation a little deeper. Read more here

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We Need New Ways of Treating Depression

Experts are now looking to the social and environmental causes of the disorder affecting millions.

As the 21st century was beginning, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfield happened to be in Cambodia conducting some research on the psychological effects of unexploded land mines — at a time when chemical antidepressants were first being marketed in the country. Read more 

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Radio National: Fran Kelly on support for veterans Podcast

Radio National: Fran Kelly on support for veterans Podcast: 

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Why this landmark inquiry into mental health will be different

As the federal election bandwagon thrusts into full gear, please take heart that – behind the scenes and in a very quiet fashion – the diligent and painstaking work of improving public policies is still under way.

Fresh from eviscerating the superannuation industry for ripping off savers, the federal government’s chief independent economic advisers at the Productivity Commission have begun work on their next landmark inquiry, into the economic and social costs of mental illness.

Read more : https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/why-this-landmark-inquiry-into-mental-health-will-be-different-20190123-p50t6i.html

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COPMI: Family Focus Intervention For Depression

COPMI COPMI has developed this powerful resource on the Family Focus intervention program for guiding families through depression, anxiety and mental illness. Please note that the program requires specific training in order to obtain resources.

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MHIRC: Resource Kit 4: Practitioners’ Guide to Men and Mental Health

mhirc kit4 This guide takes a mental health promotion, population health and systems approach to men’s mental health. Mental health promotion seeks to positively influence determinants of mental health through effective interventions.

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Men's Health Forum UK: Delivering Effective Practice In Male Mental Health

Delivering Male 1 Delivering Male was commissioned by the National Mental Health Development Unit, and written and published as a partnership between the Men’s Health Forum and Mind.

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