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HeadsUpGuys is a project based at The University of British Columbia that focuses on depression and recovery. We were able to talk to them about mental health, coping, helping a loved one, recovery and helping a friend.

What is HeadsUpGuys and how did it start?

HeadsUpGuys is an online resource that supports men’s fight against depression by providing them with tips, tools, information about professional resources, a Self Check, and recovery stories. Founded by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at The University of British Columbia, HeadsUpGuys was launched in 2015 and has since received nearly one million visits.

What are the unique mental health challenges men and boys face?

Unfortunately, a lot of men buy into myths about depression (e.g., it’s a sign of personal weakness, real men don’t ask for help, I need to figure out things on my own), preventing them from reaching out to others to build the supports necessary for successfully fighting depression.  Also, many men do not often talk about their feelings or emotions, and have difficulty discussing the subject even when they try to reach out. HeadsUpGuys provides information about who to reach out to and how, e.g., what to say to start a conversation about how you’re feeling.

It seems like the primary focus is depression. Why did you choose to focus on depression as opposed to other mental illnesses?

In many countries, men account for roughly three quarters of suicides, with depression being one of the leading causes. Depression also frequently co-occurs with other mental health issues, so we decided depression was a key place to start to get guys thinking about their mental health.

What would you say to a guy who is struggling with his mental health but is hesitant to reach out for help?

Don’t put off reaching out for some support – doing the “lone ranger” thing does not work when it comes to depression.  We encourage guys to look at fighting depression the same way they would any other serious health issue - if you had a broken leg would you hesitate to see a doctor or seek help? Fighting depression should be the same. There’s no shame in trying to be a better “you”.

You have a lot of resources on your website about how to help someone struggling with their mental health. What would you say to someone who thinks it’s not their business to get involved or someone isn’t sure how to start the conversation?

Bringing up the topic of depression can be awkward, but if you are concerned about a guy and care for him, it's important he knows that. Sometimes it's easier to start a conversation by mentioning specific changes in behaviour you've noticed, rather than saying “I think you might be depressed”. For example, you might point out that he hasn’t seemed his usual self and ask if something might be bothering him. Letting him know that you’re there for him gives him an opening to bring up his concerns.

If the topic of depression is specifically addressed in a conversation, it’s important to let him know a lot of men face depression and been able to recover from places they never thought possible.

What’s next for HeadsUpGuys?

HeadsUpGuys has quickly grown to become a leading global resource for men with depression. We're hoping to continue to expand our reach to support men in their battle against depression.  Developing new resources to include on our website is important for engaging more men, so we’re working on a variety of new initiatives, such as a new HeadsUpGuys Stress Test, a therapist directory, and self-help guides.

Because our free resource operates exclusively on donations from the public, we're also working to connect with donors and identify more sustainable funding sources to ensure our work carries on into the future.

Check them out if you want to learn more

Facebook: @HeadsUpGuys Twitter: @HeadsUpGuys YouTube: HeadsUpGuys Instagram: headsupguys

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