Although it’s important to have conversations about men’s mental health all year round, with the advent of shorter days and colder weather, November in particular can be a challenging month for some people.
What does depression look like for men?
According to Richard Robins, a social worker at The Royal, one-in-ten men experience major depression in their lifetime and it can manifest in different ways.
“It’s important for us to highlight, so men can recognize some of these symptoms,” says Robins. Anger, irritability, fatigue, aggressiveness, anxiousness, a loss of interest in work and family, issues with sexual desire and performance, overeating, sleeping too much or not being able to sleep, are all known symptoms of depression.
What can people do now to get through difficult times ahead?
Robins recommends focusing on “taking-care-of-your-body strategies” as well as “taking-care-of-your-mind strategies.”
Getting enough sleep, including some physical activity in your daily routine, and eating nutritious meals are at the top of his to-do list. He also recommends avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, and limiting screen time and news consumption to help reduce some of those stress triggers. Connecting with others, and doing something positive for others, are also healthy habits to cultivate.
“Give yourself permission to relax as well,” says Robins. “Focus on what you have control of, not what you don’t. We get so bombarded with things we can’t control, and it causes so much stress and anxiety for us.”
If you are struggling right now, what should you do?
When you take one of the greyest months of the year and add in a pandemic, it’s “like this mental health explosion,” says Robins.
Robins recommends reaching out to a loved one, a friend, or a trusted colleague and letting them know you’re having some challenges. Or call your family doctor.
If your mental health and/or substance use needs are a medical emergency, or if there is a concern you might hurt yourself or someone else, reach out to a crisis line, call 911, or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you’re the trusted friend or co-worker and are not sure how to have that conversation, try a strategy called ALEC. Originally promoted by the Movember campaign, Robins explains it this way:
A: Ask. “If you are a friend, a family member, a colleague, ask them how they’re doing. Start the conversation.”
L: Listen. “Listen without judgment, no distractions, be there for them.”
E: Encouragement. “Encourage action. Take action. Try to guide them to that next step, maybe to reach out to a family doctor.”
C: Check In. “Check in with them afterward, that’s important.” Following up shows that you care.
Here are some other resources that might be helpful:
- AccessMHA (AccessMHA.ca) is a web-based service that provides a single point of entry to eastern Ontario’s system of care for people who need support with mental health and substance use challenges.
- The Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic is a digital walk-in clinic for individuals seeking support for substance use. Go to theroyal.accessRAAM.ca during clinic hours to connect with the RAAM team.
- Other mental health resources
- Mental wellness apps
- Mental hygiene: Challenge yourself to take charge of your mental health
- Self-management online tools and resources