Men and Mental Health: The Importance of Friendships and Support Networks

In a world that often glorifies stoicism and resilience in men, the importance of prioritising mental health is often overlooked. Recognising that mental health is not a sign of weakness but a vital aspect of overall well-being is crucial. Men, just like women, experience stress, anxiety, and depression, yet societal expectations and stereotypes may discourage them from seeking help.

The societal pressure on men to conform to traditional notions of masculinity often leads them to suppress emotions and downplay concerns. This ingrained stoicism can have severe consequences, as untreated mental health issues can escalate. Men need to understand that seeking help is a courageous act, a step towards self-improvement and resilience, and can strengthen relationships and lead to a more meaningful life.

Getting out with friends

One fundamental aspect of fostering mental well-being among men is cultivating meaningful friendships. While society may emphasise the quantity of friendships, the quality truly matters. Genuine friendships provide a support system that can significantly impact mental health. The camaraderie, shared experiences, and emotional understanding that come with solid friendships can act as a buffer against life’s challenges.

Talking about mental health concerns

In New Zealand, the cultural narrative often revolves around the “Kiwi bloke” stereotype. Promoting open conversations about mental health can be particularly challenging. However, breaking down these stereotypes and encouraging vulnerability can be transformative. Men need spaces where they feel safe to discuss their feelings and concerns without fear of judgment. They can do this through open communication with friends, family, or mental health professionals.

Furthermore, seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards healing. New Zealand offers a range of helplines and support services specifically designed to assist men in navigating their mental well-being challenges. The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand provides resources and information on mental health https://mentalhealth.org.nz/. The Lifeline helpline (0800 543 354) offers confidential support for those in distress. The Men’s Health Trust New Zealand is another valuable resource, focusing on the overall well-being of men, including mental health https://menshealthweek.co.nz/health-info/mental-health/

The ripple effects of poor mental well-being

Addressing mental health concerns promptly is crucial, as untreated issues can have ripple effects on various aspects of life, including work, relationships, and physical health. Men must recognise the signs of any struggles and take proactive steps to address them, whether through self-help strategies, talking to friends, or seeking professional guidance.

In conclusion, the importance of men looking after their mental health cannot be overstated. Cultivating meaningful friendships and seeking support are essential components of this journey. We all should encourage the men we know to embrace vulnerability, challenge stereotypes, and prioritise their mental well-being.

In New Zealand, the availability of helplines and support services underscores the commitment to promoting mental health awareness and providing resources for men to navigate their challenges. By fostering open conversations and creating supportive environments, we can work towards a society where men feel empowered to prioritise their mental well-being without fear of stigma or judgment.

Karen Hielkema


Registered Psychologist
BAppSci Psych, MSc Psych (Hons), PGDipPsychPrac