The silence was almost deadly for 41-year-old Devin.
After losing his job, his marriage, home, and access to his young son, all in 2016, the Ottawa dad found himself all alone, living in his car and contemplating #suicide. He didn’t tell anyone. “All I ever wanted was to be a dad and that was taken away,” says Devin. “I just wanted the pain to stop.”
But he didn’t want to leave his son behind to relive the trauma of his own childhood. At age seven Devin found his beloved grandfather dead – by suicide. “He was all I had. I was left with a falling-down drunk dad.”
Life was a struggle of pain, #depression, bullying and school suspensions – 42 in elementary school alone. His utter sadness and hopelessness continued into adulthood and was kept hidden for years because of shame and embarrassment. “#Men are supposed to suck it up and just roll with the punches.”
He was dying for help but didn’t know where to turn. “I didn’t want to hurt anymore,” says Devin. Nor did he want to release the grenade that #suicide leaves behind. “My son deserves a better existence than what I had as a child.”
But #mentalhealth support for #men is practically non-existent, so too government funding, says Devin. “We need to acknowledge that #men suffer too.”
Eighteen months ago Devin found support at the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Centre for Men and Families (CCMF), which just launched a new #suicideawareness campaign at lookbehindthemask.com to bring to light the anguish that can be hiding behind a mask of false happiness.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
“Appearances can be deceiving and #men often suffer in silence,” says Justin Trottier, of CCMF. “This campaign is a call to action to each of us to look at the hidden signs that the #men we love are suffering” and encourage #men to ask for help.
Statistically, one of the biggest things killing #men is #men themselves – #suicide is the current leading cause of death for #men between the ages of 40-60 in Canada. Men’s #mentalhealthissues remain sidelined by #stigma despite #men being 75% of all Canadian #suicides.
Traditional norms of masculinity are toxic, and not talking tragic: Globally, on average, one man dies by #suicide every minute of every day, reports the Movember Foundation, which is committed to changing the face of #men’s health and reducing the rate of male #suicide by 25% by 2030.
Contributing factors that correlate with #male distress and #suicide, in particular, are major losses like separation and divorce, losing access to children or loss of employment, reports Trottier, of menandfamilies.org.
“#Men need to speak up and speak out – we all do,” says Devin, who recently lost his job and is now working 25 hours a week for minimum wage. He gets to have his son two weekends a month.
Devin attends a support group weekly and is sharing his story to draw attention to the anguish and distress, and the lack of #mentalhealth support for #men.
A 2017 survey by Men’s Health shows that 56% of #male respondents had considered #suicide and close to three-quarters would not describe their #mentalhealth as “good.”
It’s a serious issue that is starting to reach crisis levels, says Dr. Rob Whitley, assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University and advisory fellow at CCMF. About 4,000 Canadians die by #suicide every year in Canada – and that means 3,000 are #men.
“It has been argued that there is a ‘demonization of #men’ in many sectors of society, leading to a ‘gender empathy gap’, which means that in general there is more empathy for #women and #children than #men,” says Whitley. “The suffering rarely makes its way into the media or into the public gaze.”
There is a complex web of causation behind every #suicide, no one single culpable factor. The #mentalhealth system needs to offer #men more choice, beyond medication or talk therapies, and become better tailored to men’s needs, he says. “The current system is setting #men up for failure.”
Whitley is championing for a Canadian inquiry into the #mentalhealth of #men and #boys, like the one currently taking place in the United Kingdom currently “which has been a resounding success in establishing underlying issues and bringing different voices to the conversation.”
Public investment is needed, adds Dr. Dan Bilsker, psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. Intervention with despairing men is best with “skill-oriented approaches, which teach more effective ways of coping with psychological suffering, whether the skill-training is implemented through psychotherapy, self-care workbooks, community workshops or online tools.”
Recognize these signs of despair:
- Recently experienced a big loss such as relationship, work, health
- Withdrawing from contact with family or friends
- Notable increased alcohol use
- Expresses feeling hopeless to trusted family members or friends
- History of self-harm, threats of #suicide or violence when under #stress
– Dan Bilsker, psychologist
Dealing with the issues
It is not easy for family members to help loved ones dealing with #mentalhealthissues – they are often unsupported themselves, says Dr. Robert Whitley, an expert in the prevention of #male #suicide.
There are some #mentalhealth promoting activities that family members can help enable and encourage to promote recovery, says Whitley, including religious activity, which has been associated with better #mentalhealth.
“Likewise contact with nature is positively correlated with better #mentalhealth. So is exercise,” says Whitley.
Interestingly, a new study indicates that citizen journalism and writing/filming scripts can help foster recovery in people with #mentalhealthissues, he adds.