Can Facebook Groups Help Men Manage Their Mental Health Issues?

Typically, when you Google 'Facebook mental health', or similar phrases, you'll get a bumper crop of articles about how quitting the platform, or even taking a break from it is the best thing you can do if you're feeling low. Second to that, you'll get news posts about people either having public breakdowns or even being bullied on the site. Facebook is most certainly not typically associated with a healthy mind.

What Facebook is known for is stimulating discussion, for better or worse, something which male mental health support groups encourage almost above and beyond everything else. The stereotypical 'male' mentality is to suck it up, keep it to yourself and carry on, which is considered to be part of the reason why male suicide rates are that much higher. An open forum on male mental health in a safe environment would potentially provide a great antithesis to that, so why not Facebook?

There are some active examples of this. Mashable just published an extensive piece about 'FIFO Men', a group set up a few years ago to allow 'fly-in fly-out' mining workers (a predominantly male line of work) a place to discuss the various issues raised by this uniquely challenging lifestyle.

FIFO workers are something of an extreme example, they live in isolated camps, rarely get to see their families, get moved around a great deal and have to work pretty extreme hours. Mental health issues affect all of us; it's estimated that 350 million people across the world suffer from depression, while more generally speaking, 1 in 4 people in the world are thought to suffer from some form of mental illness.

Gradually, more and more support groups are appearing on Facebook. They eliminate the need to actually sign up for anything, or sit in a room with other people, and simply provide somewhere to talk with like-minded people regardless of where you are, what time it is, or what else you're doing. It might not sound like much, but it could make all the difference in the world.

Some of the groups are specific to certain conditions, while others are more general, but in either case, all it takes is some targeted keyword searching to ferret them out. All I did was run a search for 'the black dog', hit the 'Groups' tab and immediately I found Blokes v Black Dog, an Australian support group with almost 2,000 members. A second search turned up MaleSurvivor, a page which largely posts links to various relevant news material, but also the odd motivational poster. It's not much, but it's enough to make people feel like someone's looking out for them.

This is still very early, but if more and more groups like this keep appearing hopefully the momentum will carry things forward. The benefit of doing in through Facebook is that administrators can 'vet' people requesting to join the groups to make sure that they have the right intentions, and understand what the group is. Sure, the odd troll might slip through the cracks, but they're easy enough to expunge once their true intentions become evident.

Some of the larger male mental health foundations like CALM have started to support this movement, and measures taken by platforms like Instagram to recognise signs of deteriorating mental health are creating an environment on social media which will hopefully encourage people, male or otherwise, to discuss it much more openly, and speak up when they need help.

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