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MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
THE HAIRY FACTS
Mental health and wellbeing is equally important to physical wellbeing. It is now well documented that both are linked and many of the things that help with our physical health (e.g. physical activity/exercise) also improve our mental health.
Mental health problems in men can often go undetected or untreated. The reasons for this are numerous and complex but can often be attributed to a lack of awareness that there is a problem in the first place. Men may not be able to recognize or confidently articulate the signs and symptoms that they experience. There is additional pressure due to associated stigma (shame and embarrassment) preventing them from taking action and accessing mental health services. Some men can instead act out with risk taking behaviour to numb or avoid the real problems they face. To many men, being “manly” means not admitting to any vulnerabilities or expressing emotions. However, men are not alone in what they are experiencing.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Mental health problems encompass a multitude of conditions and can have different symptoms and require different treatments. Here are some of the major types of mental health problems affecting men:
Schizophrenia and Psychosis
Depression affects how you think and feel about yourself. The good news is, just like a physical illness, depression can be managed with effective treatment.
Signs and symptoms can include all or some of the below:
Lack of interest in work, hobbies and doing things you normally enjoy
Low energy levels and lack of motivation
Sleeping too much
Lack of concentration
Anger or irritability
Who is at risk?
Some major events or situations have been linked with depression while others also contribute to increasing the risk for men:
Major Risk Factors
Other Risk Factors
Previous experience of depression and/or anxiety
Stress (work / financial / life)
Drug and alcohol use
Partner going through pregnancy and the first 12 months of fatherhood
Serious medical illness (physical or mental)
Lack of physical exercise
Isolation or loneliness
Having a family member with depression
Conflict (family / political)
Poverty / Homelessness
It’s important to remember that each person is different and it is often a combination of factors that puts a person at risk of depression.
Almost 5% of men will experience an anxiety disorder.3 These are more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed. An anxiety disorder may be present when these anxious feelings don't subside and are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. This makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing an anxiety disorder, these feelings cannot be easily controlled. There are numerous different types of anxiety disorders, including social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
Signs and symptoms can include all or some of the below:
Hot and cold flushes
Tightening of the chest
Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
Who is at risk?
Often, it’s a combination of factors that can lead to a person developing anxiety. Some triggers include:
Family history of mental health problems
Stressful life events
Physical health problems
Heavy or long-term use of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines or sedatives
Personality factors – some research suggests certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety
People with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive illness) experience extreme moods — very high and over-excited (manic) or very low (depressed). The person may be affected so much that he or she experiences the symptoms of psychosis, and is unable to distinguish what is real. The symptoms generally react well to treatment, and most people with bipolar disorder recover well from episodes of the illness.
Symptoms may vary with some people experiencing both extremes:
Feeling high, over-excited and reckless, or imagine that they are more important or influential than they are in real life.
Feeling extremely low, feeling helpless and depressed, with difficulty making decisions or concentrating.
Behaving in an uncharacteristically irrational or risky manner.
Who is at Risk?
The causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understood. As with any other illnesses, they are likely to be a combination of hereditary and other causes, but a genetic predisposition to develop the illness has been clearly established by scientists.
PSYCHOSIS AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
Confused thinking - when acutely ill, people with psychotic symptoms experience disordered thinking. The everyday thoughts that let us live our daily lives become confused and don’t join up properly.
Delusions - a false belief held by a person, which is not held by others of the same cultural background.
Hallucinations - the person sees, hears, feels, smells or tastes something that is not actually there. The hallucination is often of disembodied voices which no one else can hear.
Male eating disorders are on the rise with increasing rates of body dissatisfaction amongst men. An eating disorder is characterized by obsessive thoughts about food and body weight. This includes people who limit the amount of food they eat (Anorexia nervosa), eat lots of food in a very small time and then purge (Bulimia) or overeat often (Compulsive overeating).
Cultural messages which factor in men developing an eating disorder:
Males should only have one body type
You are what you look like
Males need to be in control
Eating disorders are not masculine
Warning signs more likely to occur in males signaling the onset or presence of an eating disorder:
Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting or muscle toning
Weight lifting when injured
Anxiety/stress over missing workouts
Decreased interest in sex, or fears around sex
Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
Using anabolic steroids
How can you take action if you or someone you know experiences mental health problems?
The most important first step is to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Whether it’s your doctor, your family, your friends, or an anonymous person on a support line – advice and effective tools are available. Different health professionals can provide different types of services, treatments such as psychological or drug therapy and further assistance to help people on the road to recovery. It’s very important to find the right mental health professional to suit your individual needs.
Additional support is available through:
Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness.
A national, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the way we think about, act towards and treat mental health.
Mental Health Canada is a national comprehensive directory of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Psychoanalysts, Counsellors, and Psychotherapists searchable by professional designation, gender and location.
You Thrive is a bilingual online resource for youth that uses a health promotion to support positive mental health.
To request a copy of our references, please contact