Breaking the Stigma: Men’s Mental Health

By Chiara Marcello

During International Men’s Health Week, attention is brought to the preventable health issues affecting men and the need to care for their health and well-being. Despite the importance of remaining physically well, many men struggle with prioritizing their mental health.

According to Stephen Corradino, a recreational therapist at Humber River Health, men’s mental health is a stigmatized topic that is often avoided and not openly discussed in society. This stigma exists due to the gender roles and societal discourses within our communities. This Men’s Health Week, Stephen believes it is time for a change.

Stephen Corradino

Why is there a stigma surrounding men’s mental health?
Due to existing stereotypes, illness in men can be seen as a weakness. This is especially true of mental illness, as most men are taught not to be emotional. Men’s mental health is rarely spoken about. For instance, women supporting other women ignited the women’s mental health movement. This is not the case for men; there are not enough men speaking about the importance of nurturing their mental health. There is a lack of safe spaces where men are allowed to share their challenges and be vulnerable, without them appearing as “weak” or any less of a man- or human being for that matter. Having emotions and expressing feelings has been given a feminine connotation, making it emasculating for a man to talk about how he feels. This can make life very isolating and reclusive.

What mental health challenges do men commonly face?
Depression and anxiety in men are at the forefront, which is proven in the following statistics:
– 10% of Canadian men experience significant mental health challenges.
– One million Canadian men suffer from major depression each year.
– Of the 4,000 Canadians who take their own lives each year, 75% of them are men.

While women are more likely to have suicidal ideation, men are more likely to follow through. Struggling with depression has developed a “weak” undertone; a man only struggles if he is not “strong” enough to deal with what is causing his anxieties.

Being able to talk about what makes us anxious and depressed is, quite literally, life-changing. When you share and shine a light on worries and anxieties, it is easier to seek help, but for many men, this is not the case.

What coping mechanisms and resources would you recommend for men?
Anything that connects the body to the mind is a great coping mechanism, such as exercise, tai chi, and yoga. Yoga can have a feminine undertone, leading to the stereotype that only women do yoga- this could not be more wrong. Regardless of the physical benefits of yoga, the mental benefits are abundant. Yoga increases feelings of calmness and mindfulness and allows you to feel less impulsive and more grounded through deep breathing.

There is also an app called Tethr, which offers peer support for men to speak with other men about the challenges they may be facing. Tethr provides a safe space for men to connect and build support structures. Talking to peers provides more allowance for vulnerability and crushes the barrier of seeking help.

How do you stay physically and mentally healthy?
Hockey! For me, hockey every week is not just about playing, but about the comradery before and afterward as well. If something is bothering me, or another man on the team, this is a time where we can talk it out together, in an informal, less intimidating way. These conversations play a tremendous role in my mental health, as I am able to talk things out without even realizing it. My father plays as well, which allows us to get away from work and home, and have conversations about our days and weeks. I also enjoy spending time outdoors and among nature. These activities help me remain present throughout my day.

What advice do you have for men?
While I hope this conversation encourages men to have conversations with each other, I hope it ignites conversations within themselves as well. To receive help, we must first admit to ourselves that we need help, which comes from practicing mindfulness.

Take five minutes and ask yourself how you are feeling. Many people struggle with naming their emotions and articulating how they feel, which comes from a lack of internal reflection. Our lifestyles have become so busy that men tend to go through their day without taking time to check in with themselves. Take a mindful minute and check-in with how you are feeling.

Remember, maintaining your mental health is much easier than climbing the hill again. Choose to make time for your wellness, so you are not forced to make time for your illness.