June 15, 2011

Men's Mental Health: no problem?

Do the dishes while remaining manly. Accompany your youngest to her ballet recital and perform at work. Earn a big salary and ensure the security of your family without neglecting to spend time with them. Being a man has never been so complicated and so demanding.

On the occasion of Father’s Day, the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) team of the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital lifts the veil on a taboo subject: male distress. Mental health problems in men, the paradoxical decrees of society and poorly adapted support services are among the subjects broached in the most recent issue of Mammoth Magazine, the official publication of the CSHS. This special issue was prepared in collaboration with the Quebec Mental Illness Foundation and the Association québécoise de prevention du suicide.

Sonia Lupien, Director of the CSHS, is concerned about the lack of interest devoted to the challenging situation that men often face: “We need to take the time to stop and question ourselves about the distress men are experiencing. We need to do this for our father, our best friend, our spouse and/or our son.”

Requiring men to be providers but present, strong but sensitive, social norms are among the factors that explain or contribute to our understanding of this masculine despair. Caught in the middle of these paradoxical requirements, men have trouble finding reference points and unfortunately, they hesitate to ask for help or express their distress.  “It is common, when things are going badly, for women to cry and for men to deny. It therefore appears important to recognize and to respect men’s distress, which is different, but not less painful,” continues Dr. Lupien, who is also the Scientific Director of the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital and an Associate Professor of the Psychiatry Department of the Université de Montréal.

Beyond their real desire to put an end to their suffering, men fear, above all, being judged and that their distress will be falsely perceived as weakness. And when they do dare ask for help, they too often come up against a service offering that is not adapted to their needs and to their reality. According to Germain Dulac, sociologist, 70% of men who take an initial step to request help and who do not receive a satisfactory response abandon the process. It is therefore essential to listen to their requests and to decode their calls for help, which are often camouflaged behind anger, aggressiveness and violence.

This situation is preoccupying and can have serious consequences for men, but also for those around them. This is why it is imperative for society to become aware of the problem of men’s distress and to adapt to the realities of “modern man”.

Whether they are macho, liberated, businessmen, house-husbands, fallen or accomplished, metrosexuals or übersexuals, to aspire to the role of an ideal man has never required as much subtlety as in today’s society. It’s safe to bet that many of them silently regret the era where all they had to do was to hunt mammoths!

Catherine Dion
Agente d'information - relations médias
Service des communications

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