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Breaking the silence: Explore the importance of addressing Men's Mental Health in therapy.


Men experience mental health issues just as women do, but they under

utilize the services available to help with those issues (Whitely, 2017). Of all the suicides in Canada, 75% are by men (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2022), and 6.4% of men have substance use disorders compared with 2.5% of women (Statistics Canada, 2013). Why?


Much of this situation has to do with the roles assigned to men. Society has created gender roles that hinder men from showing their emotional sides and tells them that they need to be strong. Maybe family and friends have responded to their concerns by being dismissive or avoiding such discussions. Of course, there are many other factors involved for each individual.


Men and women do share most common mental health issues, but they present very differently. For men, some of the symptoms may be

  • anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

  • noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  • difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

  • increased worry or feeling stressed

  • misuse of alcohol, drugs, or both

  • persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness

  • feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

  • engaging in high-risk activities

  • aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause

  • obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

  • thoughts or behaviours that interfere with work, family, or social life

  • unusual thinking or behaviours that concern other people

  • thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

(National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.)



For Counsellors

How counsellors work with men is a key factor in addressing these issues, as the men need to feel safe and know that mental health issues affect both genders. They need to know that people are listening and their issues are important.


Counsellors also need to take time in developing the therapeutic relationship. One way to help strengthen the relationship is to find a connecting point, then balance between the connection and talk of mental health issues. Allow the client to direct the therapeutic process.


Many of my clients are male and I have used this very approach in working with them so they feel comfortable sharing their stories at their own pace.


For Men

Here are ways to maintain mental well-being and improve mental health (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  1. Build social connections.

  2. Engage in a hobby.

  3. Get regular exercise

  4. Nourish your body.

  5. Consider counselling

(Piedmont Healthcare, n.d.)


For Family and Friends

Seeking help needs to be normalized in our society instead of seen as indicating one is weak by expressing how they feel.


Honour what the men in your life say and listen from their perspective. The fact that they are sharing what is happening for them and opening up about their struggles should not be ignored (Whitely, 2022). Far too many men struggle and unfortunately, nobody knows, or nobody listens.


References


Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2022, July 6). Men’s mental health and suicide in Canada – Key takeaways. https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/resource/mens-mental-health-and-suicide-in-canada-key-takeaways


National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) Men and mental health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health


Piedmont Healthcare. (n.d.). Mental health tips for men. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/mental-health-tips-for-men


Statistics Canada. (2013). Health at a glance: Mental and substance use disorders in Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.pdf


Whitely, R. (2017, February 6). Men’s mental health: A silent crisis. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/talking-about-men/201702/mens-mental-health-silent-crisis


Whitely, R. (2022, February 25). Why so many men resist talking about their mental health: Who’s listening really matters. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/talking-about-men/202202/why-so-many-men-resist-talking-about-their-mental-health


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