It’s no secret this pandemic has impacted our mental health. As it wears on, ongoing public health measures are pushing more people into situations linked to poor mental health outcomes. 46% of Canadians have reported to have less than good mental health compared to 22% before the pandemic. We have talked extensively about the impact on women – more women have lost jobs or had to leave them to care for children at home – but what about men?

Men’s mental health is not talked about as much but it’s equally important. Experts say that men are much less likely than women to seek help for health-related concerns, including mental health. In a recent men’s health survey (MENtion it) done by the Cleveland Clinic, “77 per cent of respondents said their stress levels increased during the pandemic, while 59 per cent reported they felt isolated and about 45 per cent said their emotional and mental health declined during this difficult period.”

I can see this manifesting in my own ‘distanced’ social circle. I’ve seen husbands who have always been good humored and fun, but since the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives, their demeanor has changed tenfold. Quick to anger, stressed out men are everywhere these days. And it’s not their fault.

Men are typically household breadwinners (Gender pay gap? Another topic for another day), but many have lost jobs too and are being forced to switch from working outside the home, to being the primary caregiver AT home. I know it’s true in my household and many in my circle. I keep spouting the words jokingly “Welcome to motherhood!” but jokes aside, no one was prepared for this role reversal and it feels a lot like being thrown in the lions’ den with a steak around your neck.

Did you know that men make up 75% of the approximately 4,000 people who die by suicide in Canada each year? Men who are middle-aged have the country’s highest rate of suicide, and suicide is the leading cause of death for younger men. Suicide among men has been called a “silent epidemic” because of its alarming rate of incidence and lack of public awareness.

The greatest risk factor for suicide is mental illness, especially depression. “More than 80% of people who die by suicide were living with a mental illness or substance use disorder,” says the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Self-medicating with alcohol and other substances is a common symptom of depression among men and that this can exacerbate mental health problems and increase the risk of developing other health conditions. MHCC also notes that other factors may include “marital breakdown, economic hardship, a change in physical health, a major loss, or a lack of social support.”