Men’s mental health is the silent killer

Photo by Inzmam Khan

Everyone told me these would be the best days of my life. I’m 18, finishing college and the world around me seems to be imploding. I haven’t had COVID-19, I have a job and I consider myself one of the
lucky ones.

But my entire college experience is a zoom room with screens off. I’ve met only one professor in person for my sole in-person class. A few of my classmates met in a city park once, socially distanced. It was awkward. I haven’t ever been to the campus gym or pub. I haven’t joined a club or benefited from any campus services.

These are the best years of my life?

I am in my second year studying social work. I’ve learned a lot about mental health, but I’m shocked at the numbers related to men’s mental health. The issue is significant, and the stigma remains strong. There is a lack of much-needed conversation.

Zachary Poulin is in his second year studying social work. | Photo courtesy of Quoi Media

Men’s mental health is its own silent and deadly epidemic. It is compounded during a global pandemic with mask-covered faces, blank zoom screens and less
human connection.

Looking at pre-pandemic numbers, men make up 75 per cent of suicides in Canada. Suicides among Indigenous men are double the national average. One million Canadian men suffer from major depression each year, and homosexual men have higher rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual men.

So why is men’s mental health still taboo?

There is so much shame around the issue. We suffer in silence. We don’t reach out to friends or family members for help. We are told from a young age that we are weak if we share our emotions. For men, being vulnerable is still not ok.

This leads to toxic masculinity. It leads to anger and uncontrolled emotions and depression. It leads to alcohol, drug and video game addiction. We see it in homeless shelters, youth centres and prisons. We even see it in our homes, in lines at shopping centres and on city streets.

Many men are on the edge.

The pandemic amplifies it. A survey by Movember in the early part of the pandemic shows that 57 per cent of men over 45, and 45 per cent of men aged 18–24, felt less connected to their friends since the onset of COVID-19. These numbers are likely much higher now. The same survey shows that men are worried about losing their jobs or risking promotion if they share their mental health challenges at work.

So, as you sip your eggnog around the tree this year, go beyond the traditional holiday chatter. Friendships matter for men’s mental health. Learn more about it. And then reach out to the men in your life.

Act, listen and support, and don’t joke or judge. Know that many men around you are suffering in silence. They, too, need to talk and share. In some cases, their life depends on it.

Zacharie Poulin is a college student and future social worker.

Source: Quoi Media