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Encouraging men to seek support for mental health struggles

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A growing amount of evidence highlights the fact that men's mental health is in crisis. This can be attributed to a number of factors, pertaining in large part to the way in which males are socialized. Gender stereotypes dictate that being vulnerable and asking for help is a weakness and the opposite of masculinity. As a result, men experience higher levels of shame and guilt around their mental health challenges and are less likely to seek help.

Connectedness - and more specifically, perceived connectedness - is another major issue when it comes to men's mental health. Unlike women, men more often feel isolated and alone, void of meaningful social connection and support. As human beings, feeling valued, cared for and supported by others is critical to our well-being. So much so that lack of meaningful social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, and strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.

I recently attended a training on suicide risk and safety planning. Early on, we were taught that when assessing suicide risk and safety planning, gender is considered a major risk factor to be mindful of. Believe it or not, 75% of the Canadians who die by suicide every year are men. Trans, gay and bisexual men, racialized men, middle-aged men, and older men are most at risk. While females are more likely to resort to self-harm (such as cutting and pills), men more often turn to lethal means (such as weapons and hanging) which are more likely to result in death.

 

Large-scale, systemic change is required. Until that happens, it's up to us to ensure the men in our lives get the care they require.

 

How do you know if a male in your life is struggling?  

 

Usually, when people are struggling with their mental well-being, they act differently from their usual selves. This could look like:

 

  • Irritability and anger
  • Being more withdrawn
  • Trouble doing everyday tasks
  • Changes in usual patterns of eating and sleeping

If you notice this in a man you care about, you can help by speaking up and connecting them to different sources of help and support.

 

How do you approach a conversation to encourage men to seek help?

 

While broaching this conversation is never easy, it can make a world of difference. Your loved one may not realize they have an issue, it might be a lack of awareness. Ultimately, what can we do to help encourage men to seek help when needed?

 

  • Arguably the most important part is letting the person you're worried about know that the reason you're there is because you care. Ask them about how they're feeling, and simply listen without judgement.
  • Make sure to pick an appropriate time and place to carry out what might be an emotional conversation. Let the person know beforehand that what you want to speak to them about is important, so they go in a little more prepared. Also make sure it is somewhere they will feel safe, so they can comfortably process and react to what you're telling them.
  • Let your troubled loved one know that just because mental health isn't visible, this doesn't make it any less real. Just like a person with cancer requires treatment in order to get better, so do those whose troubles are psychological.

  • Help your loved one know that people struggle at different times. The challenges of the pandemic contribute to lowering people’s resiliency so provide reassurance and compassion when you’re communicating. This will help normalize opening up about struggles and the truth about how they’re feeling.
  • And lastly, if possible, help them get the help.
At MindBeacon, we can help treat men’s mental health struggles and the first step is to visit us here to complete an assessment. Our Therapist Guided Program is free to Ontario residents thanks to funding from the Ontario government.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.