Experiencing mental health challenges does not indicate weakness. The Mental Health Commission of Canada acknowledges the prevalence of mental illness is comparable between men and women. However, societal norms and expectations influence the lack of acceptance afforded men when they talk about personal struggles – particularly when the struggles concern mental health. “From an early age, boys are often told to hold back their tears and men are told to “suck it up” when dealing with life’s pressures. Toughness and stoicism are expected; emotional vulnerability is seen as a blemish.” (as cited by Centre for Suicide Prevention, n.d.) This stigma, pressuring men to be “stoic” or “strong” while struggling with depression or other mental challenges, has dire consequences. Men are less empowered to seek help, and suicide rates amongst men are substantially higher than those of women. “The greatest evidence of male vulnerability is in suicide statistics. Among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male.” (Toronto CMHA, n.d.)
If you are a man who is struggling, it’s important you know you are not alone. Starting the conversation about your mental health is a crucial step towards mental wellbeing. The Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta Division has a list of resources for you as you navigate your mental health journey.
Identify how you are feeling
Use the feelings wheel as a tool to recognize and understand your emotions
Physical pain symptoms can be easier to acknowledge than emotional pain symptoms. This can result in mental health challenges going unreported and undiagnosed. The Feelings Wheel helps you recognize, understand and describe how you feel. The inner circle is labeled with names of primary feelings (mad, sad, scared, joyful, powerful and peaceful). The outer rings contain names of secondary feelings you might not be aware of related to the primary ones. (Newfoundland-Labrador CMHA, n.d.)
Take the mental self-check test
It can be possible to be aware of your symptoms without relating them directly to depression. Focus groups conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed “men described their own symptoms of depression without realizing they were depressed.” (as cited by Toronto CMHA, n.d.) This online depression screening tool by HeadsUp identifies common indicators of depression, although it should not be used as an official diagnostic tool.
Open up to others
Find a friend
Studies consistently demonstrate the benefits of openness and vulnerability between friends. A close and empathetic friend can become a support system, standing by you and working with you while you improve your mental wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression.” (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Connect yourself into a peer support group
Joining a support group provides you with a community of peers who will encourage personal healing and offer guidance as you express your personal mental health struggles. To hear others say “I have been there” or “I understand what you are going through” is validating and reassuring. Peer support also offers additional benefits, including camaraderie and friendship.
Examples of peer support groups include:
- Menssheds: Peer support groups throughout Alberta
- OSI-CAN: Peer support groups for emergency first responders
Speak to a mental health professional
You may benefit from talking about your mental health with a counsellor or psychiatrist. Mental health professionals will listen with a non-judgmental ear, provide you with resources and strategies and can formally diagnose potential mental illnesses.
To find professional mental health services near you, visit ementalhealth.ca.
Visit these additional resources working towards ending stigma for men seeking mental health support:
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
Centre for Suicide Prevention. (n.d.). Preventing suicide in men. [Webpage]. Retrieved September, 2020, from: https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/men-and-suicide/?utm_source=buddyup.ca#prevent
Toronto CMHA. (n.d.). Men’s Mental Health. [Webpage]. Retrieved September, 2020, from: https://toronto.cmha.ca/mens-mental-health/
Newfoundland-Labrador CMHA. (n.d.). Feelings wheel. [PDF]. Retrieved September, 2020, from: https://cmhanl.ca/app/uploads/2019/09/Feelings-Wheel-Handout-2019.pdf
Mayo Clinic. (2019, August 24). Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. [Webpage]. Retrieved September, 2020, from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860