According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 4 out of every 5 suicides are male. Meaning that 80% of suicides are carried out by men. This disturbing figure is not representative of the amount of men that seek mental health assistance in comparison to women. There has been a growing recognition of the level of mental illness prevalent amongst men, but there is still a large amount of stigma associated with men who openly discuss their mental health issues. Men are less likely to be forthcoming with their illness. This is due to the heavy cultural pressure put on men to constantly uphold this façade that they have it together. Societal expectations push men to maintain a ruggedness and masculine persona and encourages them to neglect their emotions. This pushes men to veer away from their vulnerabilities and to not conform to a need of expressing their feelings, which can have damaging long-term effects. In response to this unfortunate reality, Dylan Murphy, a member of the Saint Mary’s Healthy Minds Team decided to pitch the idea of creating a platform that encourages an open discussion surrounding the challenges men have with mental illness. With the help of Dr. Brent Conrad and other members of the Healthy Minds Team, a panel was put together. The 5 person panel features all 3 members from the Sickboy podcast; Dr. Todd Leader, a professor at Saint Mary’s University who has decades of experience working in areas of mental health and addictions; and Collette Robert who is the Saint Mary’s University Student Association’s VP in Equity and Wellness. Dylan Murphy says that he was motivated to do something because he, “noticed the lack of resources that focus specifically on the mental health of men and having seen and experienced the stigma surrounding ‘masculinity’ I felt the need to do something about it. When I was accepted into the Healthy Minds Team I saw it as my opportunity to finally be able play an active role is opening up discussion between men and the mental health issues they experience”. Nikolas Shymko is also a student who supports the need for this panel discussion and recently shared his own challenges with mental health after having suffered an injury as a varsity athlete and having to cope with the reality that he might not be able to play again. He believes that platforms that encourage discussions surrounding mental health help in alleviating the stigma surrounding men talking about their experiences.
Megan Wright, who is a Peer Supporter as well as a member of the Saint Mary’s Healthy Minds Team, is also an organizer of the upcoming panel discussion and I got the opportunity to sit down with her to ask her about her thoughts surrounding mental health for men. After discussing the event with her a bit I asked her what her objective was for the panel discussion and she responded by saying, “as much as I’m interested in what our panelists have to say we’re organizing it for the students on campus and I’m hoping that the people that come are engaged. I know that sometimes it can be intimidating to talk in front of people, but I’m hoping that they have conversations whether it be with the panelists or with their friends and family. Either way discussions surrounding this issue are a win”. I for one very much agree.
For anyone interested, the panel discussion is happening at the Gorsebrook Lounge on January 17th from 6:00-8:00pm and it’s FREE. Hope to see you all there!
If you are curious about what options Saint Mary’s University has for counselling services, there is the counselling centre on the 4th Floor of the Student Centre. Their phone number is: 902-420-5616 and you can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s also the option of dropping by and speaking with one of our Peer Supporters on the first floor of the Student Centre right under the stairs.
If you or anyone you know would like to get a hold of the Mental Health Mobile Crisis 24/7 line, their phone number is: 902-429-8167. Also, the Manager of Sexual Response’s 24/7 line is: 902-471-8129.
By Zahra Dhubow