The amount of discussion surrounding men’s mental health has always been deficient. This exact lack of dialogue causes many men to tightly restrict and police their emotions.
The reason for this is that men tend to not communicate their emotions. Though the feeling is there, the physical expression of that emotion is often not.
Peer Health hosted an event where five men volunteered to share their journeys with mental health and the disadvantages they discovered in keeping their feelings contained.
Roha Shahzad organized the event because she witnessed the mental struggles of an acquaintance.
“Instead of being open and leaning on loved ones during this time, he began to push them away when they tried to help. He also began relying on alcohol to numb his pain,” Shahzad said.
The first panelist was Mark Hammer, an undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan. As a child, he was constantly told to “be a man,” which suggests that men should be “tough” simply because their gender calls for it.
The ‘be a man’ mentality is the problem with the current state of men’s mental health. Hammer’s constant suppression of his feelings turned him into a heavy drinker in his teenage years but all of this changed after he opened up, joined a twelve-step program and found support in the people around him.
Murray Drew, a U of S Agriculture and Bioresources professor, was also a panelist. At the age of 16, he was hospitalized for depression and even his sisters were not aware of this until years later.
Drew’s goal goes beyond the programs we have for mental health outside of class — he wants to change the environment inside of the classroom. He often tries to connect with students as best as he can due to his belief that “community is absolutely essential.”
The third panelist, Devan Moxley Teigob, is a mental health nurse who spoke on the social barriers stopping men from sharing their emotions.
“It is way more reflective of our inability to share than it is our suffering,” Teigob said. In order to combat this, he wants people to hear themselves and each other.
Huskie football player, David Solie, was always passionate about sports in high school. He used it as an escape. The issues arose when he broke his clavicle and was unable to play sports in 12th grade.
At first, he did not want to accept that he was suffering from depression and anxiety, so much so that he even stopped taking his medication. Once he realized that people were willing to listen to him, he could finally open up and start heading down the right path.
“I realized it doesn’t matter who people want you to be; it’s about who you want to become,” Solie said.
The last to speak was Thomas Saretsky, a teacher at Holy Cross High School. He also suffers from depression and described the mental illness as “an unwelcome house guest who doesn’t take kindly to eviction notices.”
His point was that depression is not necessarily constant, it comes and goes and has “pockets of peace and joy.” He also added that if someone you know has suffered or is suffering from depression, the best thing you can do is believe them.
Though he was unable to make the event, Tyler Smith, a survivor of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, sent in a couple of videos to talk about mental health.
“Growing up, I was a guy who really didn’t want to show weakness,” Smith said.
He hopes for people to put their mental health first so that they can move forward in life.
“One thing has become clear to me: the world is in good hands. That’s what’s going to make a change for mental health; you guys get it,” Hammer said.
The importance and impact of mental health affects every person regardless of gender. Society is certainly moving closer to having that view on it.
Photo: Cameron Heo