Mental wellness

Men’s mental health

Standard-issue tough, proud, square-jawed males tend to duck questions about mental health. Yet many men suffer from psychological distress. How to help them?

A few years ago I started having obsessive thoughts. Images of a world destroyed by climate change kept turning over and over in my mind. I couldn’t watch news about the environment anymore. There was like this enormous shadow hanging over my head.

For months and months I tried to handle it on my own, looking for signs of hope or positive news about the climate, but it didn’t help. Finally, I couldn’t take it. I decided to tell my family doctor (fortunately I had one). I explained what I was feeling all through the day. My doctor understood and prescribed me antidepressants along with a recommendation for therapy. And before long, I turned the corner. I also eventually got over myself and told my partner what I was going through. And she had my back. It was one of the best decisions in my life.

But how many men never deal with all that? They think their mental health problems will just go away after a while, as if by magic. They withdraw into silence or denial. Studies show that men are less likely to seek help than women for mental health issues. 

Why are men less likely to seek help for mental health problems?

Men often don’t see much point in treatment. They also tend to be less knowledgeable about mental health, according to a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. So they may wait longer before talking to someone. Unfortunately, many wait till a full-blown crisis erupts. 

One reason for that is that men who admit to psychological vulnerability continue to be stigmatized, according to the Anxiety Canada. Most never do seek treatment. And this could cause tragic consequences. Witness the fact that, of the 4,000 suicide deaths in Canada every year, 75% are of men. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among men age 15 to 39. The problem is that many men seem to think suicide will solve their problems. 

More and more Canadian men are experiencing mental health problems. In 2022, 17% of men aged 15 years and older said their mental health was fair or poor. The problem affects everyone. No social class is immune to mental illness.

What are the main signs of a mental health problem?

The classic signs and symptoms of mental illness are

  • Withdrawal
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Sleep problems and loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Dramatic mood swings

Mental health issues can affect anyone regardless of gender. However, some disorders seem more common among men.

What mental health disorders are most common among men?

1. Depression

For men, depression often goes undiagnosed. Common symptoms include

  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in work and other activities

Symptoms can occur over long periods of time. They can affect work, home and social life. 

Depression affects everyone and can strike at any time and at any age. In Canada, 11% of men and 16% of women will experience a major depressive episode in the course of their lives.

2. Anxiety

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAT) constantly worry, excessively and uncontrollably. Anxiety Canada notes that they often experience uncomfortable physical symptoms as well. These may include

  • Sweating
  • Gastric discomfort
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating, etc.

Anxiety disorder diagnosis rates in Quebec were 5.8% for men in 2021, versus 10.8% for women.

3. Burnout

Job burnout, or simply “burnout,” is a syndrome characterized by physical and mental fatigue. The cause is work-related. A person with burnout will generally be frustrated, dissatisfied, tired of going to work, and will find it hard to deal with others at work, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. They’re cynical, critical and disillusioned about their work over a long period of time. Burnout isn’t depression, but it can lead to depression. 

Burnout has been increasing since the pandemic. In Canada, 21.2% of all employed people report high or very high levels of work-related stress. Those rates are lower for men (19.7%) than they are for women (22.7%).

Where can men get mental health assistance?

Feel you’ve lost your bearings? Just can’t think straight? A professional can help you get your head above water. 

1. Info-Social 811

Hurting and looking for help? Call 811, option 2 to reach Info-Social. It’s a free service that lets you talk to a mental health worker by phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

2. Canadian Men’s Health Foundation

The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation has what it calls the MindFit Toolkit. It’s available online and includes self-assessments, tips from experts and free virtual counselling sessions.

3. Buddy Up

Buddy Up is a men’s suicide prevention communications campaign. It’s run by the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary and aims to drive authentic conversation among men on mental health issues.

4. Allume.org

This Quebec City suicide prevention centre campaign (French only) targets specifically men age 35 to 49. 

5. Montreal Resource Centre for Men

The mission of the Montreal Resource Centre for Men (in French) is to support and assist men who are having a tough time. Call them at 514-355-8300 or 1-833-673-2746.

Wondering how you’re doing?

 

Think about these five statements from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Well-being Index to check in on yourself.

 

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