Mental health and men: how to support your loved ones

By Andrea Parent, social media and digital content coordinator
Men also experience mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety. Knowing this, why don’t we hear about it more?
A man sitting down on a leather couch is holding his head with his hand, looking sadThere are a number of reasons why men may choose to suffer in silence rather than reach out and seek help, and the statistics are alarming. According to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, approximately one million men suffer from major depression in Canada each year. Adding to that, men tend to not use available mental health services, with statistics indicating that only around 30% of people who use mental health services are men.
Struggling with mental health challenges can be very lonely, further aggravated by the stigma associated with mental health and men. Social norms can make it difficult for them to reach out and discuss their feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression.
Whether it’s a family member or a friend you are worried about, here are some tips to spot depression and to support someone going through it, as well as some resources.
How to spot depression in men

Although everyone may react in different ways and show a wide variety of signs and symptoms, some behaviour can be indicators of depression and/or mental health issues. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
  • Depressed mood, irritably and/or anger
  • More withdrawn than usual
  • Decreased interests or pleasure in things they used to enjoy
  • Weight change or change in appetite
  • Fatigue, loss of energy or change in sleeping habits
  • Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Physical pain such as headaches, backaches and digestive problems
  • Reckless behaviour such as engaging in dangerous sports, drinking compulsively, gambling, etc.

two hands holding eachotherHow to support your loved one

Having a reliable support system is crucial for everyone, but especially during difficult periods.

Here are some things you can do to support a man in your life that’s going through a tough time:

  • Be present: let him know you are here for him and care about him.
  • Voice your concerns: if you know him well, start a conversation about changes you have observed in him.
  • Be receptive: remember to be empathic, patient, and non-judgmental.
  • Encourage him to seek further help: seeing a health professional, for example.
  • Don’t try to “fix” them. Listen, acknowledge and point him towards resources.

Mental health resources for men:
There a many great resources that you can point him towards. Here are a few examples:
  • The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation: a national, registered charity providing information, tools, and motivation for men and their families to live healthier
  • HeadsUpGuys: An online, anonymous resource specifically designed for men, and their families, to prevent the continued erosion of men’s mental health and deaths by suicide
  • Buddy up: a men’s suicide prevention communications campaign
  • Movember: Movember looks at mental health through a male lens, focusing on prevention, early intervention, and health promotion
  • Dudes club: a participant-led community for men’s health and wellness
  • Mindshift CBT App by Anxiety Canada: easy tools to help with anxiety
Remember that it is not up to you to “fix” someone’s mental health, and that it is ok to express your limits and set boundaries. While we all want to help our loved ones, we shouldn’t burn ourselves out doing so.
The Canadian Red Cross Psychological First Aid courses can also be of help. Participating in one of these courses will help you anticipate stress and crisis whenever possible and equip you with the skillset to practice self-care and to provide care for others during particularly challenging times.

Related stories:
Coping with crisis: What’s in your self-care plan?  
The benefits of exercise for your physical and mental health
Workplace changes and well-being: adapting to a new era

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