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Men are less likely to seek help for mental health — and the pandemic is making it worse

Coping amid COVID-19: The mental health toll on Canadian men
WATCH: Mental health is a key part of the pandemic discussion, but is there enough support for men?

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Neil Tkatchuk to close his fitness business for an unknown amount of time, he broke down.

“My heart just kinda sank. I remember going home and breaking down in front of my family and just not knowing the direction going forward, how long this was going to last and all that uncertainty,” said Tkatchuk, who owns Trench Fitness in Regina.

The father of two said it triggered a rollercoaster of emotions over the last two months, with periods of hope combined with stretches of feeling low, depressed and anxious.

Tkatchuk said what helped him through was leaning into fitness, albeit in a different way, and keeping an open dialogue with family and gym members.

READ MORE: Global mental health crisis looming due to coronavirus pandemic, UN warns

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“Just having them check in and ask, just, how are you doing? has been helpful and beneficial,” he said.

“A lot of times I told them, ‘You know what, I’m not doing that great today, but thanks a lot for messaging me and it’s nice to know there’s someone who will listen and kind of care about that.’”

In a recent survey commissioned by men’s health charity Movember, eight out of 10 Canadian men responded they find it helpful when someone asks if they are having a hard time.

However, 40 per cent said no one had asked how they were coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: CAMH survey looks at binge drinking, financial anxiety during coronavirus pandemic

“These stats aren’t necessarily surprising, but it’s important we find out [the results] especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Adam Kletchko, a Regina-based Movember Canada Spokesperson.
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“Maybe there’s an assumption there that men can figure it out and deal with it, which we’re finding out by these stats is obviously not the case.”

Social Research Centre (SRC) conducted the survey of 5,737 people, men and women, aged 18 or older across Canada, the U.K. and Australia through an opt-in online panel.

Coronavirus: Mental health, the secondary pandemic
Coronavirus: Mental health, the secondary pandemic

Response quotas were set based on age, region and gender and the final data was weighted to reflect the profiles of each country.

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There were approximately 1,430 respondents in Canada, 794 identified as male, from April 23 to May 4, 2020. The Canadian margin of error is ± 2.59 per cent.

Movember has yet to publish the full findings of its global study, but shared the Canadian results with media.

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According to the organization, the study showed over a quarter of Canadian men, 27 per cent, reported their mental health had worsened compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, and a third, 34 per cent, stated they felt lonely more often.

It also found a third of Canadian men, 32 per cent, felt their relationships with friends and work colleagues had weakened since stay-at-home and physical distancing restrictions were imposed.

Added to that, a quarter of Canadian men, 25 per cent, reportedly stated they have not checked in with friends or family to find how they’re coping, compared to 13 per cent of women.

“It’s really powerful to say, ‘Hey, it’s been great talking to you, what are you doing tonight? Maybe we should FaceTime, HouseParty or use one of those apps,” Kletchko said.

“Often times we forget to do the check-in portion.”

READ MORE: ‘Skin hunger’ is real, and it can severely harm your mental health

Movember stated the research showed Canadian men were less likely to seek help — from family, friends or other sources — as a means to help them manage changes to their life due to the COVID-1 pandemic, with only 49 per cent reporting they had sought help, compared to 58 per cent of women.

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The charity recently launched a free interactive digital tool, Movember Conversations, available in English and French. Through simulated conversations, people can practice navigating difficult conversations with loved ones on relevant topics such as job loss, social isolation and family pressures.

Self check-ins, peer support key: trauma therapist

According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, three out of four deaths by suicide in Canada are men, making it the second leading cause of death in men aged 15-44.

Regina-based trauma therapist Sidney McGillicky said the issues he helps people with aren’t gender-specific, however, men are often more physical and reactive in how they manage stress compared to women.

“Everyone is different, but generally speaking, men will internalize stress and often shy away from exploring their emotions,” he said.

“They will either try to solve [their issues] concretely, or minimize it or distract themselves.”
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McGillicky has worked as a trauma therapist for 20 years, and said while men’s mental health awareness is on the rise, there’s still a stigma around actively seeking support services.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How parents can help their kids navigate uncertainty, manage mental health

“The COVID-19 crisis will put pressure on that stigma, especially when you have the mass unemployment we have now, and the uncertainty because this pandemic isn’t over,” he said.

One coping technique McGillicky recommended, especially for men, is daily self-regulation.

“Monitoring how they’re internally feeling, and checking in on how they’re doing with worries, their emotions,” he said.

“The second thing is to maintain peer networks, relationships and social supports. That doesn’t have to be five friends, for men it can be one friend, a spouse, a brother or uncle.”

He said once those two supports are in place, people can focus on problem solving in the short-term, daily and weekly, while being cautiously optimistic throughout the re-opening phases.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
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The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone
you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.