As the warm, summer months begin to take shape in the northern hemisphere, Movember reminds us to take stock of the mental health of the men in our lives.
June marks the start of summer in Canada. A season renowned for its BBQs, camping, and cottage getaways. Weeknights and weekends become a time primed for socialization. From soccer games to a neighbourly wave, we once again have front-row seats to our friends, families, and neighbours’ lives. However, with the start of summer comes more opportunity to recognize if the men in our lives might be struggling. For someone who may have masked their feelings behind a computer or phone during the colder months, warm weather events — like weddings — can force even the most recluse out. Therefore, it’s important to look out for signs that the men in our lives, who may often hide their struggles, are going through a tough time.
For years, Movember, a men’s health organization, has been working to raise awareness and funding for programs that better support men and their mental health. Societal stereotypes have created a culture where men are expected to be “strong and silent.” In Canada, three out of four suicides are by men, and it’s the second leading cause of death in men aged 15 to 44. In a survey conducted by Movember in May 2021, results showed that men’s mental health is worse today than it’s ever been, while a poll from November 2021 showed that Canadian men between the ages of 18 to 54 are more likely to speak out about their physical health than their mental health. So how can we work to change something when it’s so deeply ingrained in our society?
Summer presents the perfect time for us to check in on the men in our lives. Evidence shows that isolation and loneliness can play a significant role in increasing the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts in men. Getting men to start talking is as simple as staying connected, keeping an eye (and ear) out, and creating a safe space for hard conversations. Whether it’s a chat at soccer practice that leads to a “guy’s night” or choosing to go beyond the neighbourly wave and organize dinner — these small steps can make a big difference.
It can be tough to recognize when someone is struggling, but there are warning signs. Maybe a friend is going through a life-changing event, or they are especially quiet, irritable, and withdrawn. Knowing when and how to start this conversation can be the hardest part. This is why Movember launched its Movember Conversations, an online resource to help people understand what to do if they suspect a man in their life is struggling. The free, module-based program uses everyday scenarios as examples of how to get that “tough-to-crack” friend to start talking. Movember Conversations might not be the magic fix, but it’s a great place to start. As the summer breeze arrives and movie nights are swapped for campfires, let’s make sure we keep making memories with the men we love. Sometimes it just starts with a conversation.