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It's Men's Mental Health Awareness Day

Today, June 14th, is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Unfortunately, I have not seen or heard enough awareness about this day. I think it’s important that we acknowledge the particular stigma that men face when it comes to their mental health, and how it contributes to their decreased likelihood to seek help and their increased likelihood to die by suicide. All too often, men face stigma and shame merely because of the gender roles that society has assigned to them, i.e. the expectation to be “strong” and unemotional. They’re taught that not only is it wrong to feel sensitive or emotional, but that it’s even worse to show it. If speaking about feelings and troubles is seen as a sign of weakness and a threat to their masculinity, no wonder men aren’t reaching out for help as often as girls and women.

According to the Canadian Centre for Suicide Prevention, four times more men than women die by suicide. Many theories have been investigated to explain this statistic (which, by the way, is consistent almost world-wide), i.e. a tendency towards aggression and violence making it more likely for men to choose violent and particularly lethal methods, a greater amount of males compared to females are under the influence of alcohol upon their suicide and thus might be more disinhibited and impulsive, or the fact that less men seek help in part because they are made to believe that it would fracture their manhood, etc.

For me, the bottom line is this: if we’re ignoring the problem and not talking about it, then nothing is going to change. I’m not male and I won’t pretend to know exactly how it may feel to face the specific stigma and overall experience that they do when it comes to emotional vulnerability or mental health, but I do know that you’re not alone and that you deserve help. I know that talking about our struggles and feelings is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness or failure. I know that we are human and, aside from the odd exception, we all have feelings. I know that if we want to make change we have to open the gates of communication and challenge the stigma that leads so many men to feel that it’s easier to end their lives than it is to ask for help.

Let’s vow to be a part of this change, to make an effort in how we frame and speak about men’s mental and emotional struggles. When you joke around with a buddy who seems down by saying “oh toughen up, be a man” you might be doing more harm than good. Let your friend or family member know that you’re there for them, that talking about feelings isn’t a sign of weakness, that they don’t have to deal on their own, and that there is hope.

If you are in crisis please either call 911, visit your local emergency room, or find a local (Canadian) distress line/centre. For Ontario specifically, you can find local crisis support @ mentalhealthhelpline.ca.

Here are a couple of cool websites for men’s mental health (confirmed by guy pals):