January 10, 2024

In New Zealand, where the rugged beauty of the land is matched by the stoic character of its people, mental health often remains a subject shrouded in silence, especially among men. Despite the progressive strides in mental health awareness, many Kiwi men find themselves grappling with the decision to seek therapy, hindered by cultural norms, societal stigma, and an ingrained sense of rugged individualism.

1. Societal Expectations and the Kiwi ‘Hard Man’ Image
The quintessential image of the Kiwi ‘hard man’ – resilient, self-reliant, and emotionally stoic – plays a significant role in how men in New Zealand perceive mental health. This cultural archetype, celebrated in both urban and rural settings, can often lead men to believe that acknowledging mental health issues is incompatible with the ideals of masculinity. As a result, many Kiwi men may resist seeking help, viewing it as a departure from these traditional norms.

2. Stigma Surrounding Mental Health in New Zealand
The stigma around mental health in New Zealand, particularly in male communities, remains a formidable barrier. Men who express vulnerabilities or seek therapy are often met with misunderstanding or judgment, reinforcing the notion that mental health struggles are a source of shame. This stigma is not merely external but deeply internalized, adding to the reluctance of many men to pursue therapy.

3. Lack of Awareness and Understanding
Among many Kiwi men, there exists a gap in awareness about mental health symptoms and the benefits of therapy. Coupled with a general hesitation to discuss emotional well-being, this lack of understanding can lead to misconceptions about the nature and effectiveness of therapy, further dissuading men from seeking the help they might desperately need.

4. Fear of Judgment and Vulnerability
The fear of judgment and the challenge of showing vulnerability are particularly acute among New Zealand men. The societal expectation to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ can make the prospect of opening up in a therapeutic setting seem daunting, if not antithetical to their upbringing and societal expectations.

5. Limited Tailored Resources and Support Systems
While New Zealand has made significant strides in mental health services, there remains a shortage of resources specifically geared towards men’s mental health. This shortage can make it challenging for men to find relatable and effective support, exacerbating the difficulty in seeking therapy.

6. Economic and Accessibility Concerns
Economic factors, including the cost of therapy and insurance coverage, are significant concerns for many in New Zealand. Additionally, the availability of therapists, particularly those specializing in men’s mental health, can be limited, especially in rural and remote areas of the country.

7. Success Stories and Positive Movements
Despite these challenges, New Zealand has seen inspiring examples of men who have overcome these barriers and found invaluable support through therapy. Initiatives like the “Mates in Construction” program and public figures speaking out about mental health have started to change the narrative, showing that seeking help is a sign of strength and resilience.

The path towards better mental wellness for men in New Zealand is complex but achievable. It requires challenging deep-seated norms and fostering a culture where seeking mental health support is normalized and encouraged. As the conversation around mental health continues to evolve in New Zealand, it’s essential to support Kiwi men in recognizing that seeking therapy is not just a brave step but a vital one for their well-being.

More information and support

For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, medical centre, hauora, community mental health team, school counsellor or counselling service.

If you don’t get the help you need the first time, keep trying.

Below is a list of some services available which offer support, information and help.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737
Talk with a trained counsellor, anytime.

For counselling and support

  • Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) – here to help
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666 – for confidential support for anyone who is lonely or in emotional distress
  • Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 – to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions www.depression.org.nz
  • Healthline 0800 611 116 – for advice from experienced health staff

Does any of this resonate with you? 

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