Beyond the emergency: a national study of ambulance responses to men’s mental health

Emergency care Ambulance service Men's health Mental health Ambulance callouts First responders Australia

Despite high rates of mental health issues, many men across Australia find it difficult to seek professional support. Common barriers to help-seeking include:

  • poor knowledge and recognition of mental health issues and where to get help (poor mental health literacy)
  • dominant masculine beliefs around help-seeking as a sign of weakness
  • the stigma associated with these conditions.

When men do seek support, it is often when they are experiencing severe physical symptoms or are in crisis.8 Given men’s reluctance to seek professional support, any contact with a health professional is an opportunity to take action and support positive changes for their mental wellbeing.

Ambulances respond to the emergency health needs of all Australians. They attend to more than 1.3 million emergency incidents annually. Although this emergency response is likely to include many men with mental health issues, there has been little research characterising the nature of these presentations or mapping their outcomes.

Little is known about men’s experiences of ambulance support, what responses are provided, and whether contact links them to ongoing professional support. Research has pointed to discrimination and poor mental health literacy in other areas of the health system10, but there is limited understanding of paramedics’ attitudes and capacity to respond to people experiencing mental health issues.

Beyond the emergency was a three-year national research initiative funded by Movember and Beyond Blue. It sought to:

  • quantify the magnitude and outline the characteristics of acute male mental health presentations to ambulance services
  • examine paramedic and men’s experiences
  • identify opportunities to improve mental health support for men.
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