Men get sad too. It’s true. Yet, we don’t hear a lot about men’s mental health in mainstream media. Anyone who identifies as male, can fall prey to societal messages that they need to be stoic, hide away their emotions and appear solidly able to weather any storm. This has deep impacts on how men seek out help.
Typically, clinicians in mental health are accustomed to hearing, “Women get sad and men get mad”. It’s a social expectation and men may only feel heard when they express anger or engage in self-destructive behaviours. What the stats show in Canada is that men really do suffer in silence. Men are three to four times more likely to die by suicide, and those aged 40 to 60 make up a large proportion of these deaths.
Mental health clinicians have been vocal about the need for governments to start planning for the pending mental health crisis that has been developing during this pandemic. Recent polling and statistics indicate we are already seeing an increase in medication use and more people seeking out help.
How are men fairing during Covid-19 restrictions?
We hear about the Shecession. We hear about children needing socialization from in-class learning. Let’s shine a spotlight on men and check in with their experience too:
- Cleveland Clinic’s MENonit survey of about 1000 adult men has found that 45% report a decline in their mental health and 59% saying COVID-19 has had a greater impact than the 2008 financial recession.
- A Movember survey conducted last year of 1430 Canadian adult men, found that 27% reported their mental health has worsened and 34% were lonely more often since the pandemic began.
How can men cope better?
As a therapist, I would recommend talking to someone. The most important thing to look for in a therapist is the ability to be comfortable enough to trust that your emotional state won’t be judged. However, not everyone may be ready to share, and that’s okay! Reaching out can be especially difficult for men because of the images of masculinity that are culturally prevalent.
Here are some ways to cope if you are still not ready to talk to someone:
- Get a great structure in your day – make sure you have time set aside to check-in with yourself and take regular breaks (yeah, really, truly, step away for 10 minutes at least once a day!)
- Meditate – candles and relaxing music aren’t necessary! You need only be willing to be quietly aware for a period of time. Research has shown even a few minutes of meditation has benefits. Not sure how to get started? Here’s some great guidance
- Spend time with loved ones. I know, it’s a worldwide pandemic and keeping distanced from others has been a necessity. You can still dedicate time for enjoyable moments with loved ones. Start a group chat and post silly gifs, compliment those who you may live with daily, set up a video session with a relative or send a “thinking of you” card in the mail to someone. Little connections help you build resilience against chronic stress.
- Exercise. Easier said than done! Yep, start small. A walk around the block, or taking the stairs over the elevator, all help release the feel-good chemicals in your body. Sustaining an increase in your heart rate for 30 minutes will give you the best bang for your efforts.
If you’d like to learn how to support someone, try this Movember Conservations interactive tool
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at +1 (833) 456-4566 any time day or night, or chat online.