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Men, mental health, and moving discussion out of the shadows

January 13th, 2015 | Posted by vimhsadmin in people first radio

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picture 601“We have inculcated a culture in our society that men have to be tough, men have to be strong. Our society is very good at punishing gender deviation in men. Weakness is not considered to be masculine.” — Dr. Don McCreary (Toronto Men’s Health Network)

The Canadian Mental Health Association wrote the following introduction to its “men and mental illness” paper in 2007: “It’s being called a silent crisis, a sleeper issue. But there are signs that this sleeper is at last awakening. Around the world studies, surveys, web networks, journals and newspaper articles are shedding light on a shadowy subject: men’s mental health.”

Now, almost 8 years later, the Movember Foundation is the largest funder of targeted mental health programs for men in Canada, surpassing the total amount of money all levels of governments across Canada have devoted to the issue. And Movember’s addition of mental health to its roster of supported initiatives is only in its second year.

MentalHealth_816x626_CAImage from Movember Canada

Depression

About 11% of men in Canada will experience major depression in the course of their lives
[Health Canada]

Solitude and depressionBoth men and women get depression. But men can experience it differently than women. Men may be more likely to feel very tired and irritable, and lose interest in their work, family, or hobbies. They may be more likely to have difficulty sleeping than women who have depression. And although women with depression are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die by suicide. [NIMH]

Along with genetics and stress, MaleHealth.com points out that social and psychological factors can contribute to men’s depression. Men’s focus on competition and feeling powerful can be adversely affected by unemployment and the presence of women in the workplace. Physical illness, in particular a life-threatening condition, is another trigger for depression, since it directly impacts a man’s sense of strength and status. [CMHA]

Many men do not recognize, acknowledge, or seek help for their depression. They may be reluctant to talk about how they are feeling. But depression is a real and treatable illness. It can affect any man at any age. With the right treatment, most men with depression can get better and gain back their interest in work, family, and hobbies. [NIMH]

Men are formally diagnosed with depression at half the rate of women, but their suicide rate is 3-4 times that of women. Men often exhibit irritability, aggression, substance over-use, over-engagement in work and sports and these can be cardinal signs of depression in men. — John Oliffe, Vancouver Sun

Suicide

In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 and 44
[BC Vital Statistics Agency]

picture 601cSuicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic”: epidemic because of its high incidence and substantial contribution to men’s mortality, and silent be­cause of a lack of public awareness, a paucity of explanatory research, and the reluctance of men to seek help for suicide-related concerns. [BCMJ]

A statistical overview demonstrates a shockingly high rate of death by suicide for men compared with women, and a need to focus attention on prevention, screening, treatment, and service delivery. Promising lines of research include identification of clinical indicators specifically predictive of male suicide and exploration of precipitating and predisposing factors that distinguish male suicide and account for the substantial gender disparity. [BCMJ]

Only by breaking the silence—building public awareness, refining explanatory frameworks, implementing preventive strategies, and undertaking research—will we overcome this epidemic. [BCMJ]

Men’s lack of social support, relative to that available to women, has been implicated as a risk factor in male suicide. An interview-based study of men who had attempted suicide suggested that social stressors—family breakdown, overwork, employment insecurity—often combined with alco­­hol or drug abuse, are understudied contributors to male suicide. Some evidence suggests that occupational stress contributes more strongly to male than female suicide. — B.C. Medical Journal

Self-Esteem

picture 601dSelf-esteem is a tricky thing. It vacillates up and down on an hourly basis, it’s affected by all kinds of explicit feedback from our environment, and it’s impacted by subtle unconscious dynamics of which we are entirely unaware. [Psychology Today]

Research suggests, for example, that a man’s implicit self-esteem is hurt by a female romantic partner’s success because he automatically interprets her success as his own failure—a byproduct of men’s competitiveness. Another possibility: Her success challenges the gender stereotype that he should be relatively more competent, strong and intelligent than his female partner. A third explanation offered is that the man’s thoughts about his partner’s success trigger a fear that he is not good enough for her and might lose her. [MS Magazine]

Many younger men, for example, have fathers who are absent, either physically or emotionally, and have probably spent their school years being taught by women. In the absence of male role models, many have turned to social media and online pornography to learn about life’s fundamentals. If they have any doubts about their personal and social rejection, they need only refer to our press, which has taken to harping on relentlessly about how men are the enemy in the name of female empowerment. [The Telegraph]

Several different factors affect male self-esteem, defined as a male’s positive or negative views on himself. The most common factor is society’s expectations of a man and how an individual feels that he lives up to those expectations, including his physical capabilities and how he deals with everyday life, depending on how much importance he places on them. How a man looks, or how he thinks he looks, can also play a role in male self-esteem. Sexual performance and financial success can raise or lower a man’s view of himself as well. [wisegeek.com]

One of the primary factors that affect male self-esteem is the beliefs in an individual’s culture that dictate what a man should be like. In many cultures, a man is expected to be physically strong and, in some areas, mechanically capable. If an individual feels that he does not live up to these expectations, his self-esteem will likely suffer. Conversely, if an individual feels that he meets or exceeds these, his self-esteem will likely be very high. [wisegeek.com]

Men want to be there for their buddies, and guys under-estimate the power of peer permission to talk openly and coach each other to take steps to look after their health. As men, we need to mobilize our health behaviours to help normalize men taking care of our own health.John Oliffe, Vancouver Sun

We speak with Nanaimo Men’s Centre executive director Theo Boere and West Coast Men’s Support Society executive director Grant Waldman.

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