Almost half of Canadian men meet the threshold for clinical depression, and one in three think about suicide or self-harm weekly, according to a study by BC researchers released today.
A survey of working-age men in Canada found that 55 per cent said they felt lonely, and one in four said they had experienced psychological pain so bad they felt like they were falling apart.
“It’s striking to see that about half of men report at least mild to moderate depression,” said Dr. John Ogrodchuk, professor of psychiatry and founder of the HeadsUpGuis men’s health program at the University of British Columbia.
When men wonder if they should go on living or feel like they’re breaking, “it’s a scary place for an individual to be,” he told The Tiee.
The survey, co-sponsored by HeadsUpGuis and Community Savings Credit Union, asked 1,450 English-speaking men aged 18 and over about their mental health and work life. They had a median age of 43, about 85 percent of them worked full-time, and 71 percent were white. More than 60 percent of respondents were employed in BC
The questions focused on men’s mental health and the impact their workplaces had on their sense of well-being. Ogrodniczuk noted that work/life lines have become blurred or completely eliminated during the pandemic as telecommuting arrangements have increased.
The alarming findings show that many men face serious mental health challenges and workplace support – while clearly needed – is sorely lacking across all types of industries.
Forty-two percent of respondents said they had a life-threatening alcohol or alcohol use disorder, and about 35 percent of men said they were afraid to go to work.
Eleven percent experienced weekly bullying at work, and about six percent said they were bullied, threatened or sexually harassed at least once a week.
“That primary activity that we do, if one-third of people are afraid of it, that’s a terrible place to be,” Ogrodniczuk said. “We have a lot of people who show up for work and don’t do well.”
Slightly less than half of the respondents stated that they had poor social support and that they had never sought help. About 30 percent of the men said they were at least moderately burned, and 36 felt moderate to severe anger.
And about 35 percent of the men surveyed said that their personal life negatively affects their work performance.
“As soon as you walk through the workplace door, you don’t leave your old self behind,” Ogrodniczuk said.
The information sheds new light on the risk factors that contribute to the disproportionately high rate of male suicide, Ogrodniczuk said. Men account for 75 percent of suicide deaths in Canada.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for men under the age of 50 in Canada, according to HeadsUpGuis, a resource for men living with depression.
Ogrodniczuk said a culture of shame and toxic masculinity prevents many men from seeking help, adding to their suffering and leading them to see feelings of sadness and overwhelm as a personal failure.
According to HeadsUpGuis, some of the male myths about mental illness include the belief that depression is a sign of weakness, that anyone with enough willpower can “snap out” of feeling bad, and that men should be “manly” enough to handle themselves without asking for help.
“We need to break down that barrier of shame for men,” Ogrodniczuk said.
Workplaces can be an important place for that shift, the men in the survey indicated. They want to see honest and open discussions about mental health issues at work, more paid time off, and additional benefits to support mental health, such as therapy and counseling.
Even something as simple as changing the terminology from “sick days” to “health days” can catalyze a mindset shift that prioritizes preventive rest and time off for mental and physical health, Ogrodniczuk said.
The report recommends offering more workplace social events, creating stronger anti-bullying and harassment campaigns, and providing information sessions on mental health and wellness practices to help employees identify when they’re not feeling well.
Employers should also regularly review workload and provide flexible employment arrangements as much as possible.
Ogrodniczuk sees men’s culture slowly evolving and becoming more open — from his practice as a psychotherapist for men, to the locker room of his recreational hockey team.
Ogrodniczuk hopes the survey results will serve as a starting point for broader policies and actions in the workplace, and have already inspired meaningful conversations among participants.
“Something small can have a profound impact,” he said.