MENtal Strength

MENtal Strength

MENtal Strength is a mental health awareness campaign developed by Student Intervention Services and Student Counselling Services to challenge myths about male mental wellbeing, to increase awareness and discussion of men’s mental health, reduce stigma, and support men to have real conversations about how their emotional well-being and seek support with mental health services. 

Why is it Important?

The "Man Box" and Men's Health

"Masculinities" refers to the plural and dynamic ways in which masculine norms, attitudes, identities, power dynamics, and behaviors are lived. In a 2017 multi-country study of masculine norms, Promundo referred to these norms collectively as the "Man Box," a set of beliefs that place pressure on boys and men to think and behave in specific ways. (1). Masculinity is not toxic, but extreme messaging on gendered beliefs and behaviors can be toxic and may put men at higher risk of mental health problems and create barriers for men to seek support for their mental wellness.

From an early, age boys are often told to hold back their tears and men are told to "suck it up" when dealing with life's pressures: "take it like a man." Toughness and stoicism are expected; emotional vulnerability is seen as a blemish on their manhood. Anger is the only acceptable emotion to feel and show; dominance is accepted while compassion for self and others is viewed as "weak". A man who is feeling inadequate or "less than" a man is more unlikely to seek out help. (2)

If men are not able to talk about their emotions, they may mask their stress and deal with emotional pain through harmful behaviours or actions, and sometimes suicide instead of seeking help.

  • In 2018, Statistics Canada reported 3811 suicides. Of these, 75.6% suicides were male identified ages 15 and older (3).
  • Further, many Transgender males report discrimination, bullying, and violence because of their gender identity. Due to these experiences, they are more likely to report mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression (4).

How Can We Help?

Know the Signs When Men Are Struggling

Commonly known symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety may look different for men.

Men may present with increased anger or rage, withdrawal or social isolation, low energy, and risk-taking behaviours. Men may use alcohol, cannabis or other drugs to cope with stress or hard feelings. They may talk stressors related to money, sex, relationships, school, career and self-doubt. They may talk about feeling pressures and stress related to high expectations to perform, provide financially or struggle to fit into traditional male norms and expectations (5).

Men struggling with their emotional well-being or mental illness may have a hard time asking for help. Providing ways to reduce the barriers for men is important.

We all have a role to play when reaching out to men. Friends, family, staff, faculty and fellow students can benefit by being alert to the warning signs of mental health issues in male identified students. Together, we can create a safe space, through open non-judgmental conversation and gentle questioning for men to share and express emotions and get the help they deserve for their mental health needs.

Resources

NUlistens - We are here to listen.

References

  1. Ragonese, C., Shand, T., & Barker, G. (2019). Masculine Norms and Men’s Health: Making the Connections. Washington, DC: Promundo-US.
  2. Gerdes ZT, Levant RF. Complex Relationships Among Masculine Norms and Health/Well-Being Outcomes: Correlation Patterns of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory Subscales. American Journal of Men’s Health. March 2018:229-240. doi:10.1177/1557988317745910
  3. Suicide in Canada: infographic - Canada.ca
  4. Mental health considerations with transgender and gender nonconforming clients | Gender Affirming Health Program (ucsf.edu)
  5. NIMH » Men and Mental Health (nih.gov)