Each year in the month of “Movember”, there’s increased awareness of men's health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men's suicide through many pledging to grow a moustache and raise funds.
However, it’s important to consider how men’s health is in crisis not only in the month of November, but each and every single day.
In Canada, 3 out of 4 suicides are men.
The stigma around mental health has always been a challenge to tackle, but for men, patriarchal expectations coupled with this stigma, hurts them more than ever.
Perhaps it's the belief that men are supposed to be the dominant, superior, womanizing, or tough gender, shaped by the patriarchy that makes it even more difficult for men to come forward, share their difficulties, and be vulnerable.
Men aren’t supposed to cry, and if they do, they’re “babies.”
Men aren’t supposed to like female artists and other sorts of entertainment because if they do, they’re “girly”.
Men have to be bodybuilders, play and watch sports, engage in locker room talk, grow a beard and drive expensive cars.
These are some of the many basic reasons men are harmed by the patriarchy, and there are many that operate on a deeper level that aren’t talked about because they are thought to only apply to womxn.
The patriarchy often reinforces gender norms. Men are also victims of gender-based violence, and of course, statistically womxn have it worse, but this shouldn’t mean that the violence men experience shouldn’t be acknowledged.
In addition, a lot of men don’t want to admit that they’re struggling with depression and other medical issues because they fear it could be taken as a sign that they’re weak.
Toxic masculinity breeds in this kind of environment, where emotions are minimized and bravado is maximized. It ultimately hurts so many.
I’ve seen the men in my life, and how they often turn to drugs, vaping, smoking, drinking as a way to cope with their feelings and emotions.
How do we support and de-stigmatize men’s mental health? How do we show up for them and remind them that it’s okay to be emotional, vulnerable and weak?
To start - Feminism.
Feminism has long been a movement that benefits womxn more than men, and many have even questioned if men can really be feminists.
Feminism isn’t a “womxn vs. men” movement. It’s a movement to recognize the ways individuals are impacted by the patriarchy, and to fight against these aspects to have a more equal and accepting society.
Womxn do have a lot of issues that are rationalized and ignored, therefore the work towards supporting our fellow sisters is more highlighted when it comes to Feminism, but this doesn’t mean feminists don’t care about the experiences and issues that men face.
Sometimes, we may not notice what men are going through. We often think that just because our brothers, dads, uncle’s, cousins, etc. are constantly laughing, going out for walks and exercising, working a good job, and having a good group of friends aren’t signs of depression -- but how do we really know that?
Just because someone seems happy on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling on the inside.
There are many people out there who openly talk about their struggles, but it isn’t as common for men, and we need to break down these barriers and create more spaces for these conversations.
“Man up” isn’t the answer. Checking-in is always a kind gesture to do, but educating and breaking down the stigma surrounding men’s mental health is extremely important, and can happen year round, outside the month of November.
Here are some resources to get in contact with:
Youthspace.ca (NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education and Support)
Crisis Services Canada, Toll Free (24/7): 1 (833) 456-4566
Canadian Crisis Hotline: 1 (888) 353-2273