Sprouting a moustache in November has become a powerful way to collectively raise awareness about health issues and collect funds for an important cause. Men’s health issues like prostate and testicular cancers are at the forefront of this movement, but Movember is also an opportunity to speak out about anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Compared to Canadian women, Canadian men are still less likely to seek or receive mental health care, and more likely to die by suicide. In fact, suicide rates are 3x higher in men than in women, with men between the ages of 35-59 being the most vulnerable. This is why it’s important to talk about mental health issues and challenge perceptions that exacerbate them. Ready to join the movement? Here’s what you need to know about men’s mental health.
What are the barriers to seeking mental health support?
50% of Canadians will experience mental health issues by the age of 40, but stigma still exists. Fear of negative stereotyping and discrimination is often what prevents men from seeking mental health support in the first place. Outdated perception of masculinity and men’s role in society has a severe impact on how men manage their physical and mental health.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, women tend to rally around issues that touch them and offer support to their peers. On the other hand, while many people still struggle to acknowledge emotional issues with the same care as physical issues, mental health concerns in men often go unnoticed and undiagnosed. Men are also particularly concerned by the impact their mental health issues may have on their professional life. A 2019 survey reveals that 28% of Canadian men worry that talking about their mental health at work could put their job at risk.
How are mental health issues affecting Canadian men?
Spotting mental health issues in your peers isn’t always easy, but some situations are more likely to promote stress and anxiety, and in severe cases, depression and suicidal thoughts. Take a look at these common stressors:
- Mental health issues are more common in men who are overworked or working in poor conditions.
- Depression and suicide are more common in men who are unemployed or retired.
- Depression is more common and severe in men who are going through a divorce.
- PTSD is more common in men who are victims of physical assault.
- Risk of suicide increases in men who experience legal or financial struggles.
- Mental health issues can be more severe in men who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse.
What signs and symptoms should you watch for?
While men and women experience mental health issues at similar rates, men are less likely to recognize these issues in themselves or in their peers. Here are common symptoms that may indicate that someone close to you is struggling with their mental health:
- Increase in anger and irritability
- Changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping more than usual
- Difficulty concentrating and feeling restless
- Increased sense of worry
- Headaches, body aches, or digestive problems
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Feeling of sadness or hopelessness
- Having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Turning towards high-risk activities, like gambling
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviour
- Behaviour that negatively impacts family, work, or social life
- Suicidal thoughts
Many of these symptoms – like drinking, smoking, or gambling – can manifest as unhealthy coping mechanisms in men who do not have the proper tools to manage their mental health.
How can you develop healthy behaviours to cope with stress?
Proactivity is crucial when it comes to managing stress and anxiety. When you develop positive coping behaviours, you prioritize well-being and keep daily stress at bay. These simple behaviours are part of your day-to-day and become a natural part of your routine. Together, they work to keep you emotionally and physically happy, which is key to minimizing stress. Here are some long-term strategies to help you stay mentally healthy:
- Focus on healthy eating
- Include movement in your day
- Stay occupied with activities you enjoy
- Support loved ones or people in your community
- Take time off when you need it
- Acknowledge and reframe negative thoughts through journaling or meditation
How can you start a conversation about mental health?
The most powerful tool in your arsenal is your voice. Normalizing conversations around mental health and reaching out when you witness common signs of stress are essential in fighting this mental health crisis. Here are 4 simple, open-ended questions to get the conversation going and allow the person to share their experience in their own words:
- How can I help you with _____?
Reaching out to help can show that you care, that you’re trustworthy, and that you understand they need support.
- How are you holding up with the pressure of _____?
This gives them an opportunity to reflect on how they cope with stress and anxiety.
- How are you feeling about _____ at the moment?
Asking about a specific incident can help them focus on the present, rather than get overwhelmed with thoughts that are too broad.
- How long have you felt this way / been having this issue?
Honing in on the intensity of the issue can help the person recognize that they may be experiencing an ongoing issue that requires professional support.
Changing the way we talk about mental health, especially with the men in our lives, can normalize seeking help. Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues, or you know someone who is, reach out. Our healthcare professionals and counsellors are here for you.