November is now upon us, and along with the dominance of all things pumpkin spice flavoured comes Movember. It’s a chance for guys to ditch the daily shaving routine by growing a mustache and collecting pledges to support initiatives focused on men’s cancers and men’s mental health/suicide prevention. The Movember Foundation slogan “Grow a mo, save a bro” says it all – prevention as well as the right support at the right time can save lives and prevent men dying too young.
But, why a campaign focused solely on men’s mental health?
Sure, men and women alike have mental health and may experience struggles, but there are a number of facts and stats that highlight the need for a focus on men’s mental health, including the following:
- Men are more likely than women to develop schizophrenia at a younger age.
- Men have higher rates of addiction than women, which may be related to mental health problems.
- Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide.
Also, men face some unique barriers when it comes to recognizing, talking about, and seeking support for mental health problems.
These include the following:
Men may be socialized to be “tough”.
Ever hear the phrase “boys don’t cry”? It speaks to the expectation that males should be strong, an expectation that may be communicated by parents, peers, and others who may criticize or make fun of males who show emotion. This may lead to men being reluctant or not knowing how to talk about their feelings because they mistakenly believe that it makes them weak.
Men may not be reminded as much about the importance of self-care.
It’s typical for women to think about and be encouraged to care for themselves and have a balance between work and home, but not always so much for men. A male friend recently told me about how he was ridiculed for taking a yoga and meditation class – he was told he had to “hand in his man card” – whereas women are often praised for doing similar things for their health.
Mental health problems may look and feel different for men.
For example, men experiencing depression and anxiety are more likely to experience anger and conflict and engage in risky behaviour and/or substance use. The men themselves and others around them may not recognize these as possible signs of a mental health problem and write them off as run-of-the-mill male “Type A” or “machismo”.
Men are generally less likely to seek help for mental health problems.
While they may go to their doctors and talk about their headaches, shoulder pain, and upset stomachs, they are less likely to discuss any emotional symptoms that coupled with the physical symptoms might signal a mental health problem that needs attention. Treating the symptoms with Tylenol and Pepto Bismol will not address the underlying issues behind them.
That old stereotype about men not asking for directions can certainly transfer to reluctance to ask for help with mental health.
What can you do if you are concerned that man in your life may be experiencing a mental health problem? The Movember Foundation offers a 4-point checklist to help you have a helpful conversation and offer support:
Talk about what you’ve observed and ask how he has been doing. Something like, “Brad, I’ve noticed you haven’t been hanging out with us lately. What’s up? How are you doing?” This can open the door and let him know that you are interested and willing to talk. It’s OK if he doesn’t open up right away – just let him know you are available for him.
You don’t need to fix what he’s dealing with to help – just listening can go a long way. Avoid the urge to dismiss by saying things like “That’s no big deal”, “You’ll get over it”, or “It could be worse”. Hear what he is saying and reinforce with things like “It sounds like this is stressful for you” or “Wow – you’ve got a lot going on”. Talk like you would normally talk with him – even something like “Dude, that’s harsh” shows that you are hearing what he’s saying.
Remember that you’re not there to solve all of his problems on your own, so talk about what else might be helpful. Asking “What would help you right now?”, “What do you need right now?”, or “Have you tried anything in the past when you’ve felt this way that helped?” might help get some hopeful steps in place. Ask what he thinks about seeing his doctor or calling other supports like a crisis line or his Employee Assistance Program and even offer to help him with this. Not sure about local supports? Offer to find some together.
Stay connected with him. Say something like “Why don’t we grab a coffee tomorrow afternoon?” or “How about we hit the gym on Saturday?” You can talk about any further steps he’s taken, continue your conversation, and let him know he’s not alone.
If you have any concerns about his immediate safety, call 911, even if he doesn’t want you to and gets mad at you. Always save a friend rather than a friendship.
If you’re concerned about someone in your life and aren’t sure how to help, reach out and get some support and guidance for yourself. Call our office at 1-877-693-4270 or sign up to take Mental Health First Aid course to learn how to help. Get the details here.
For more info on the Movember Foundation, visit their website here.