The introduction of COVID-19 restrictions coincided with many Australian men seeking professional mental health help for the first time in nearly a decade.
A longitudinal study by national research project Ten to Men shows that of nearly 750 men who sought professional mental health support after March 2020, about one in five had had no prior experience with those services for about nine years.
While researchers cannot pinpoint why the men sought help - whether it was down to the strain of COVID-19 restrictions, Telehealth services or other factors - they say it is clear the demand is there for mental health support.
"(Research) has shown that men experience numerous barriers to health service utilisation, and for some men there might be some ambivalence to, or apprehensiveness about, accessing services," researcher Dr Brendan Quinn said.
"There can be that stigma about talking about mental health issues in particular, and so offering that Telehealth option might be an effective means of countering some barriers."
Ten to Men's Dr Clement Wong is presenting preliminary findings for the survey at The Australian Institute of Family Studies' conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
On a broader scale, he said the study found about three in 10 of those surveyed had accessed a mental health service in about nine years.
About one in three of survey participants were prescribed medication for their mental health at some point between 2012 and 2021.
The findings were based on results from nearly 8900 men.
Over time, the proportion of men accessing mental health support has steadily risen, and GPs were the most common provider of mental health care in Ten to Men's dataset.
"There's something perhaps reassuring about finding that because GPs are intended to be the first port of call for health care," Dr Wong said.
Dr Quinn said the research reinforced GPs' position as the "gatekeepers" of the health service.
"If we can offer telehealth services that might be effective in taking the pressure off them in an already overloaded system," he said.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
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Northern Territory: 245 cases, no deaths, 21 in hospital with one in ICU
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