Updated: Mar 11, 2021
I truly struggled with writing this article, as couldn't figure out how to articulate the way I feel about this topic. When I first sat down to write it, I was trying to write about what I thought others wanted to hear - the facts, the stats, and the scientific reasons why men don't seek out help for mental illness. It was then that I realized that I was stuck in a big steaming pile of stigma and not even close to articulating my feelings about the stigma surrounding mental illness.
The truth is mental illness doesn't care about gender, race, profession, or how strong you think you are. At the end of the day, it is the undefeated champion of the world, whose sole purpose is to beat you down and make you submit. The only question that remains is, how much of a beating are you willing to take?
"Come on... be a man"
"Real men don't give up"
"You fight like a girl"
"You gonna cry like a little baby"
"Your just a mama's boy"
"Real men don't ask for help"
As a Gen-Xer, I know those phrases well and many more and it did not surprise me to learn that that those men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women. And if your truly are interested in facts - approximately 500 people in the province of Alberta commit suicide every year. That works out to just over one male in the province of Alberta taking his own life every day.
Now that I have officially pissed off the entire female population by implying that females don't have it as bad. Let me explain... Men are like a stubborn old dog that still hasn't learned how to sit. It doesn't matter how much you try to bribe him or force him to sit, he simply just doesn't get it. Like the old dog, men have become conditioned by the stigma of being a "Man's man". It truly doesn't matter how many t-bones steaks you have to offer, he is not gonna sit and will probably guilt you into giving him a steak. This might help explain the whole toilet seat issue.
It is stigma that has conditioned men to keep getting up, to stay in the fight, to keep trying to fix the problem, to do it alone, and not to ask for help. It is this no surrender mindset that drives men to the point of no return and leaves them feeling like they have no way out. I truly believe that it is the fear of failure that drives men to end there own lives. My hats off to all women reading this article, you are significantly smarter than the old dog. Statistically speaking you are also more likely to discuss your mental health issues with a friend or family and more likely to ask for help.
Sadly on February 5, 2020, I was and the old stubborn dog and I nearly became another male suicide statistic. Thankfully for reasons I can't explain, I managed to break free of my chain and ask for help. Now one year later, I can tell you that the road to recovery is rough and damn near impassable, but it is the only fight worth fighting. Enough blood has been shed. It is time to use stigma the way it was intended - "Man Up" and say, "I need help!"
Here's how to get started:
If you are looking for help on where to start I recommend reaching out to your local Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). They have the resources and the experience to help guide you down the road to recovery. I would also recommend checking out peer support groups like the Mental Health Armoury and also my new favourite website - Man Therapy.
If you feel that you are at the end of the road and have no fight left, please call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room. Your life matters and is worth fighting for!!!