Charting the uncharted

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Five chairs are arranged in a line, two orange and three yellow in an alternating pattern. Two people sit in two chairs, and three chairs are empty.
Let’s not treat mental health discussions like a men’s bathroom; there’s no need to leave chairs empty between each other. lee lim

Efforts to break the silence on men’s mental health

For generations, men’s mental health has been in the shadows. Discussions of men’s health are usually focused on physical health, often focusing on prostate or testicular cancer. There isn’t enough discussion or conversation around their mental health, which leads to many men finding themselves navigating a silent battlefield of mental health challenges.  

Traditional gender norms have shaped our societal expectations surrounding masculinity by emphasizing traits like stoicism, strength, and self-esteem, pushing for men to “tough it out.” These beliefs also encourage men’s general lack of interest in health issues. Many men do not even believe that they are susceptible to conditions like depression.  

This uncharted territory may be the reason why men are less likely to be diagnosed with depression, but more likely to die by suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers are only now beginning to tease apart the various biological and psychosocial factors that may impact mental health. This means there is a long way to go with a lot to discuss and improve.  

In Canada, the progress on mental health is something people are still getting comfortable with. Many clubs and gatherings are being organized to address this topic, such as the DUDES Club in British Columbia which was established in 2010.  

According to their website, “The hierarchy of the western medical model is flattened, and the healthcare providers who are involved prioritize cultural competence and safety, genuine connections, and support to help men navigate the healthcare system. Men who often carry with them intergenerational trauma related to the loss of or damage to their land, culture, family, language, and identity, are able to begin to drop some of their armour.” 

The DUDES Club organizes various workshops, sessions, retreats, and creative outlets for men to spend time together and get support outside their places of work and home. Initiatives like the Men’s Talking Circle by the DUDES Club are a phenomenal step to resolving the gap in help and support of men having comfortable conversations around trauma and mental health.  

In Regina, the Hampton Hub started the Men’s Mental Health Group on Sunday, Mar 10, at 7 p.m. and will continue “every other Sunday at 7 pm at the Hampton Hub,” according to their latest Instagram post.  

Starting initiatives like this in their communities means recognition of the need to talk about mental health, and that what affects men on a daily basis needs intentional discussion and attention.  

According to their Instagram post, “We recognize the need for us men to talk about depression, addiction, suicidal ideation as well as love up on each other.” Men and others have applauded this initiative, and the comment section of the post was filled with love and praise for the community to take such a step and bring this issue forward.  

The statistics of men’s mental health in Canada are alarming. According to statistics found on the Homewood Health website, “Approximately one million Canadian men suffer from major depression each year. On average, 4,000 Canadians take their own life each year; of those suicides, 75 per cent are men. Canadian Indigenous men have a suicide rate that is double that of the Canadian national average.” 

National strategies to help with problems surrounding men’s mental health need to be created and used across the country. Seeing initiatives like the Men’s Mental Health Group by Hampton Hub and the Men’s Talking Circle from the DUDES Club in British Columbia is a progressive way to think about moving ahead. But providing them with more resources and help is equally important, and a guide to navigating such situations is also essential.  

Understanding that men are socialized and raised with different expectations than women is the first step to clarifying differences. They have always been taught to keep their emotions to themselves and not express them openly. Thus, the first step or the way to go for this gap would be to welcome men to express their feelings or emotions openly and confidently.  

Allowing men to be open and comfortable with their feelings must be normalized. Reassuring men that they are not alone in this situation also helps. Encouraging them to reach for help is important as friends, family, colleagues, and partners.  

Homewood Health’s blog writes, “Whatever the stigmas remain in the society, people need to stop shaming men into thinking that they are inadequate if they express a need to address mental health challenges or concerns. Without support and empathy, men will continue to suffer in silence and experience worsening or more acute challenges with mental health disorders. Men aren’t unique to the stigmas associated with mental health; they may be less likely to discuss or address their concerns due to specific conditioning. As a society, we can work together to address stigmas about mental health, and encourage more people to discuss their challenges openly.”  

To navigate the complicated landscape of men’s mental health, there is hope with initiatives around the nation that encourage men to talk about real things. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto, “More funding and more specialists in this area will encourage ongoing research into male mental health.”  

Moving forward, envisioning a world where every man feels empowered to prioritize his mental well-being without fear or judgement should be the basic for every person living on this planet. There is a future where mental health is celebrated, supported, and talked about, no matter a person’s gender.  

By challenging stigma, improving access to care, and promoting inclusive support systems, it will be possible to create a more supportive environment in which men can prioritize their mental well-being.  

 

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