Mental health is increasingly being recognized as an equal player, in addition to physical health, in our overall health. Our understanding of the importance of mental wellness in all aspects of health has come a long way, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. One important dialogue that has been receiving an increase of attention lately is that of men’s mental health. With the long-dreaded “stigma” of mental illness, and the tiresome notion that mental health issues are a sign of weakness, many men who struggle with common issues, such as depression and anxiety, avoid seeking help.
Yet an estimated 10% of men will experience mental health challenges in their lifetime, and about one million Canadian men are believed to suffer from depression each year. Statistics can sometimes be misinterpreted in ways that suggest men’s mental health is simply not as much of a concern as women’s. For example, while women attempt suicide more often than men, men tend to use more lethal methods, resulting in the shocking fact that approximately 75% of those who die by suicide in Canada are men.
One North Grenville resident is taking concrete steps to help other local men take their mental health seriously. Chris Wilson started the North Grenville Men’s Mental Health Group to give men the opportunity to explore their emotions and stresses in an informal environment. The group currently has 80 local members, with a meeting that takes place every second Saturday on Bedell Road – the next bi-weekly meeting will take place on May 7.
“Usually, a handful of guys come and go between 7 pm and 11 pm,” said Chris. They begin with a quick discussion about their mental health, and any challenges they faced in the preceding two weeks. After that, they have very casual discussions about anything that comes up, with some deep conversations if anyone has anything more serious to share. Chris hopes the meetings will build more emotional resilience in the community. The style of the meetings is ever-evolving, with plans to include additional components in the summer, including guest speakers, food and drink service, “meet the family” days, and more.
While mental health issues exist on both sides of the gender line, it is undoubtedly time to take steps toward closing the gap between men and women when it comes to mental health supports. Chris’ group is an excellent start for men seeking a low-pressure environment to ease into paying as much attention to their mental health as they do their physical health. For those seeking mental health help (both men and women), a good starting point for finding services is the Government of Ontario website at www.ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support, or the Government of Canada website at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html. No one would be expected to deal with a broken arm on their own – it’s time to realize that there is no need to deal with mental health struggles alone either.