COLUMN: Movember a time to talk men’s mental health

I am willing to put it out there not to glorify my struggles. It is damn hard to put the most personal, dark corners of my soul out there for the world to judge. But that’s the point. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that difficult. 

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In my darkest moments I felt like I had nowhere to turn.

I have been on the edge of slipping over into a land where I cannot return from more times than I would like to admit. It’s not about hating or trying to hurt others, it is about my own pain.

I have spent most of the last two-plus decades dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts and in more recent years an extra dose of anxiety. I have sought help at the bottom of a bottle (never a good idea), the deeper meaning of lyrics, faith and I have received help professionally. I have also had the support of friends and family who I did not realize I necessarily could lean on.

My self-image has always been terrible, I have difficulty connecting with people outside of work, I question my lot in life and the value I have to anyone. Usually the thoughts are not rational and they come and go. I have my unexplainable bad days where seemingly for no reason I want to stay in bed in painful puddle of self-loathing and then I have days where all is right in the world. Thankfully the good days have outnumbered the bad days in recent years, but my demons still rear their ugly head and drag me down into the depths on occasion.


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My story is long and ugly.

I am willing to put it out there not to glorify my struggles. It is damn hard to put the most personal, dark corners of my soul out there for the world to judge. But that’s the point. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that difficult.

As the calendar turns over from Mental Health Month in Canada to a period of bad moustaches and Movember puns it is important to know that I am not alone in my battle.

While it is fun to talk about dirt squirrels, flavour savers and soup strainers (admittedly this line in the column exists just so I can write them down) men’s health needs to be discussed much more than it currently is.

The Movember movement has been growing since it started in 2004 as a way to increase men’s health awareness. Much of the attention goes to prostate and testicular cancer, and it absolutely should.

Mental health, however, often takes a backseat.

None of the three are sexy to talk about, and far too often there is a great deal of shame and embarrassment in coming forward, sometimes even just to get checked out by a professional. For many it is an afront to their manhood to admit there might be a problem, a chink in the armour.

It is that thinking that is leaving a swath of devastation behind.

According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, there are 500 suicides in Alberta alone every year, and is the second leading cause of death among youth in the province. Globally there are more people who die by their own hands than homicide and war combined.


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The damning stat for me is it affects three times as many men as it does women.

I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

While more awareness has been raised in recent years through various campaigns and crusaders like TSN’s Michael Landsberg, the topic is still very much viewed as taboo, only to be dealt with in hushed tones, lest someone has the idea implanted in their mind. It is this type of head-in-the-sand approach that has us in the epidemic we currently are in.

And to be fair, it’s not just men that are fighting through this, women are starting to close the gap, though a near three-to-one ratio still exists. In fact, women are actually more likely to attempt suicide, but generally choose less lethal methods and are more likely to seek help. This is not a competition anyone wants to win.

I encourage those who are wanting to grow out their lip doily, their facial fur, or their mouth brow to do so. But do it with a mission. Do not just use it as an excuse to abandon grooming habits for a month. I personally cannot grow a moustache — though I turn 36 in a little over a month, my upper lipholstry ranges somewhere between embarrassing and creepy — so I will not officially be taking part in any campaign. But I will talk and encourage others to do so as well. Find someone you can open up to, someone you can trust, and if someone turns to you be that person for them. If you do not have someone to talk to, call the Crisis Support Centre 24 hours toll free in Northern Alberta at 1-800-232-7288 or 780-482-HELP (4357), locally. Know that there are people who care and that there are always better options.

As a society, we have proven this is not an issue that will be solved by being sweeping it under the rug.

The best thing I have done to help myself is to talk about what I have gone through and my struggles. As difficult as it is, it gets a little easier each time. 

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