The B.C. Health Ministry and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation both say that most men don’t eat well or exercise enough, which can lead to chronic conditions and diseases. The federation encourages men to get active in June during Men’s Health Month. The theme is Move For Your Mental Health.
“Physical activity can boost your mood, and it doesn’t take much,” the ministry said. “Within five minutes of moderate exercise you are likely to experience a mood-enhancement effect.”
Timely advice, considering one in five Canadians screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder during the pandemic, according to the ministry. COVID has also exacerbated the poison drug crisis and domestic violence rates. Statistics show that men are largely the victims of toxic drug poisonings, and the perpetrators of domestic violence.
“There is no denying that major societal changes have occurred to men’s roles in the past few decades,” said Edwin Grieve, Area C director of the Comox Valley Regional District. “With 90 per cent of assaults and nearly all sexual assaults perpetrated by men, and men suffering nearly 80 per cent of suicides and opioid overdoses, we are clearly moving in the wrong direction.”
Grieve notes that programs dealing with spousal or alcohol abuse, for example, predominantly focus on crisis management.
“These interventions are too little too late,” he said.
Some programs, however, are preventive in nature.
Island Health used to run a men’s peer support group at the Comox Valley Nursing Centre in Courtenay. The free service is continuing in a one-on-one format for men dealing with issues around relationships, career, sexuality, stress, illness or finances.
“The peer support model is really important for men,” group facilitator Mike Gladman said. “They want to know how men like them are dealing with challenges.”
Before moving to the Valley, Gladman had run support groups in Kelowna. He said many participants were transitioning from jobs in oil or forestry that supported their family, to lower-paying positions that made them feel worthless.
“They struggled to find meaning in their life, and that’s when they’re most vulnerable to alcohol and drugs,” said Gladman, who used to co-facilitate a men’s support group at the Comox Valley Transition Society. The CVTS program is on hold due to COVID, but the Transition Society supports the reintroduction of this group when COVID restrictions allow it.
“That group has been a wonderful group,” Gladman said. “They recognize that problems around violence against women aren’t going to be addressed unless men are given support services to deal with their challenges.”
Gladman feels it helps when a man and woman co-facilitate a group, largely because many challenges are relational, and men want the insight of a woman. Otherwise, he said there’s a risk that a men’s group becomes a complaint group.
While he recognizes the need for one-on-one trauma counseling for men, Gladman said group sessions are far cheaper to operate. Moreover, preventive work can be a harder sell than emergency services, even if family members are at risk when a man is in crisis.
“It’s hard to get money from governments, except around anger management or spousal abuse groups. This is prevention work to give them the support when they’re initially in crisis,” Gladman said. “If we could support men in a respective atmosphere that doesn’t judge them, where they can be with other men in a facilitated environment, any issues around blaming women for their problems is reframed. Relational stresses are huge for families right now. Both partners are struggling and under enormous stress, and not at their best when under stress.”
The good news, he said, is that a greater number of men are reaching out for help. Some are realizing that transitioning to lower-paid jobs will keep them at home and enable them to be active dads.
“That’s the value of the peer support group, to see other men like them who have been able to adjust to a changing work environment,” Gladman said.
The Comox Valley Child Development Association offers a group called Island Dads, where men can listen and be heard in a confidential, supportive environment. Andrew McKenzie, a clinical counsellor, recently formed the group, which has met just a handful of times online.
“One thing we saw, there’s not much for dads going on,” said McKenzie, who is part of a three-person team in the Child Development Centre Pathways to Healing Partnership. “No matter what goes on, there’s always the need and desire for families to want to stay connected, despite the challenges that family members may be going through.”
Island Dads reflects the CVCDA’s Mothers for Recovery Group, though it is not specifically for dads in recovery but open to any father. So far, there are several participants from various Island communities.
“It’s building upon a lot of the wisdom and experience of the dads,” McKenzie said. “It’s incredible how they support each other. It’s quite open.
“The underlying idea is really about growth,” he added. “The dads are great at offering up resources and strategies.”
Island Dads meets Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. FMI: (250)650-9146 or email@example.com
For more information about individual counseling for men at the CV Nursing Centre, call (250) 331-8502.
If you or someone you know needs additional support, call 310Mental Health Support at 310-6789 (no area code needed) for emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.