By Kim O’Neill, CEO, On the Line.
It was Men’s Health Week last week, the international event that since 1994 has been raising awareness of men’s physical health and mental wellbeing.
As in previous years, On the Line has supported the occasion via MensLine Australia, promoting help-seeking behaviour and encouraging men to open up and talk to their peers about mental health.
5 things we do in men’s mental health
Given On the Line’s involvement in Men’s Health Week, as well as our long history of working in the men’s mental and social health sector, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things that we do in our organisation. Although we are well known for our telehealth counselling services, I find that people are sometimes surprised to hear about the many other aspects of the services we provide.
To that end, I’d like to share with you five things that On the Line does in men’s mental health (that you may or may not have known about).
1) We only employ professional counsellors
On the Line does not use volunteers. In fact, our staff are all professional counsellors who have demonstrated a strong background in the field. The requirements for working at On the Line include a formal tertiary qualification in a relevant discipline of psychology, social work, counselling, social science or welfare studies; as well as a minimum of 456 hours of actual face-to-face counselling experience.
Counsellors who join On the Line also receive additional and ongoing specialist training in various fields, whether it’s the latest in men’s mental health or trauma-informed practice.
The bottom line is that when someone calls or initiates a web chat with a service like MensLine Australia, they will always talk to a professional.
2) We use proven, evidence-based approaches to men’s mental health
The guiding principle for all our counselling is to follow best practice, supported by the evidence.
We know that men are less likely than women to seek help for a mental health concern. Our approach to promoting a men’s mental health service takes this into account, an example being the way our messages encourage men to “talk it out” rather than “get help”.
Our experience also shows that engaging with men by using goal and solution-oriented approaches (rather than focussing on ‘feelings’ and emotions) is likely to lead to better outcomes. This is important when dealing with people that are traditionally more reluctant to engage in talking about emotions and mental health.
By framing mental health concerns as issues that can be overcome with practical solutions, rather than emphasising the need to discuss them at great length, better outcomes in men’s mental health become more accessible to more clients.
3) We believe that prevention is the best approach
In a perfect world, there would be no need for our services. However, we’re far from this utopian ideal and it’s likely there will be an ongoing need for services like MensLine Australia.
It is well established that low intensity concerns (e.g. loneliness, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc.) which remain unaddressed are likely to lead to greater and more complex problems.
Australia is blessed with world-class health care. Although the mental health care system has seen significant progress over the years, it remains primarily focused on addressing symptoms and fixing problems rather than on prevention.
On the Line believes that prevention and early intervention is the most effective long-term solution to lowering the burden of disease represented by mental health disorders.
For this reason, many of our services are framed as providing help and support for low intensity concerns. The idea is to help people manage and cope with their stresses and worries now, rather than deal with them later when they may become more serious concerns.
This concept is repeated in our promotional materials and throughout our blogs and resources. For instance, a frequent message is that it is important to reach out to friends and family, check up on mates, or look after your physical health (which is likely to improve mental health).
4) We offer numerous different ways of accessing help
We recognise that not everyone with a mental health concern wants to talk on the phone. We also recognise that some people may take gradual steps before they actively engage in a phone conversation. For this reason, On the Line’s services provide a wide range of methods in which people can obtain help.
You’re likely familiar with phone counselling on a service like MensLine Australia. However, we also provide a range of other help seeking options. Web chat counselling and video counselling have a rapidly growing take up rate. One reason is that the mobile-friendly nature of this channel likely appeals to younger people. Web chat has also been shown to be a genuine alternative for people who are reluctant to engage in face-to-face or even phone-based forms of counselling, due to conditions like acute social anxiety. Incidentally, this is also one reason why we maintain an active social media presence and also provide moderating services.
We also provide a host of printed and downloadable materials so that people can help themselves to a range of items, including tip sheets, flyers and posters, as well as free access to help-seeking articles and regular blog updates.
The Suicide CallBack Service website recently launched Claire, a virtual assistant intended to provide information for people who may not want to or need to speak with a counsellor on the phone.
5) We have decades of experience
On the Line has been delivering counselling for 60 years. In an international first in 2001, MensLine Australia commenced as a tailored service to support men with family and relationship concerns. 18 years later, this leading service is still going strong.
Since 2006, On the Line has been the only organisation of its kind in Australia to achieve accreditation by the American Association of Suicidology. In fact, in 2019 we achieved certification for ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems.
If you need to talk it over, don’t hesitate to try one of our service lines.