Men and mental illness: Your voice matters

Toronto Raptors player DeMar DeRozan tweeted, “This depression get the best of me.” It was a seemingly random tweet before the All-Star Weekend event last month.

The number of supportive tweets and responses he got was impressive. While DeRozan initially clarified this was a throwaway reference to a lyric by rapper Kevin Gates, he later admitted he did in fact live with depression.

“If I had to be the sacrificial lamb to open up that gate and make everybody else feel comfortable and share their story and help the next person, that’s what it’s all about,” DeRozen said to the National Post.

One person’s speaking up can show that even the most celebrated of people go through something many other men do.

Men should not be worried to speak about their mental or health problems, or to ask for help dealing with them.

The fact that mental illness knows no boundaries means people of all genders may go through it.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental or health issues every year.

Many go through their issues undiagnosed. The stigma associated with getting help for mental problems is strong overall, but much more for men.

Men are still held to archetypal gender roles in terms of wellness. Society implicitly tells boys as they age they must “Man up” when going through troubles.

It has been taught that men do not feel, but they do. With emotional issues being seen as a form of weakness, it its seen as more acceptable for women to admit to their problems.

For many men this leads to bottling up emotions, or coping with them by abusing substances, alcohol, or engaging in reckless sexual behaviour.

The fear of getting help is literally killing men.

According to Statistics Canada, suicide rates in men are more than triple that of women. Nearly 18 thousand men kill themselves annually as opposed to women.

StatsCan also estimates that for each successful suicide, there are at least 20 attempts.

For young adults aged 15-34, it is the second largest cause of death in Canada.

Things are getting better though. Programs like #BellLet’sTalk allows many people to speak up about mental illness.

The #BellLet’sTalk hashtag also allows anyone tweeting to express their issues or willingness to listen to those with problems.

Movember has gained popularity lately as well. Men grow their facial hair out and raise money for health issues involving men during the month of November.

The Movember foundation focuses on men speaking up on topics such as prostate and testicular cancer, and our higher suicide rates.

Many other public figures have spoken on their issues. Like DeRozan, they help destigmatize the idea of getting help and learning more about mental health resources.

Pete Davison of Saturday Night Live announced last year that he was suffering from

Borderline Personality Disorder, a rare and highly misunderstood mental illness.

Chris Evans, who plays Captain America in the popular Avengers film series, struggles with anxiety disorders.

Even Prince Harry has said unaddressed grief over his mother’s death caused emotional problems with him for decades.

According to the Canadian Association of Mental Health, 57 per cent of workers in Ontario believe the stigma surrounding mental issues are decreasing.

Our culture is changing in how it speaks up on these issues. No one should have to struggle alone. No one’s gender should be a barrier to admitting they are struggling.