More services needed to help men with mental health problems: UBC

Lena Weib

Men are more vulnerable than women to mental illness, including depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide after the end of a relationship, researchers found

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Men whose relationship breaks down are far more likely than women to develop mental health problems, putting them at a greater risk of suicide, alcohol and substance use and isolation, according to a UBC nursing faculty study.


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The study of 47 Canadian and Australian men said the adverse effects of relationship breakups on men’s mental health were worsened by the social restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, commissioned by the Movember charity that advocates for men’s health, was done by UBC’s men’s health research program, and was led by nursing professor John Oliffe.

“Males (are) at greater risk of developing suicidality during separation,” than women, even when controlled for age, education, employment and children, the study said.

“Marital separation quadruples the risk of male suicide,” it said, citing an earlier academic study.

The authors said that “most men do not know where to turn for help” or are reluctant to because they fear appearing weak.


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“Aligning to idealized masculine self-reliance and stoicism can prohibit some men’s disclosure about stress,” according to the study, published in the medical journal Social Science and Medicine – Qualitative Research in Health.

Gabriela Montaner is the project co-ordinator for UBC’s men’s health research program.
Gabriela Montaner is the project co-ordinator for UBC’s men’s health research program. Photo by UBC /PNG

“Stereotyped masculinity plays a role in how they react,” said Gabriela Montaner, project coordinator with the men’s health research program.

Men tend to isolate instead of reaching out and more resources are needed specifically to address male suicide, she said.

Almost all the participants, 96 per cent, “shared detailed account of their anxiety, depression and/or suicidality during and after a failed intimate personal relationship,” according to the study.

Geoff, a 43-year-old father of two, said three years into a 15-year relationship he began isolating himself from family and friends to avoid conflicts with his partner who told him, “I don’t like you talking to your family, I don’t like you spending time with (your) best mate.”


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Brian, 46, who had experienced anxiety and depression before his 22-year marriage, said his anxiety grew with the birth and early years of a sickly child and he “grappled with the emotional labour required to sustain a partnership.”

Ronald, 28, who was clinically depressed, experienced extra mental health problems because of his partner’s infidelity, the “most common relationship transgression” that affected men’s mental health, the study said.

The men reported resorting to self care, such as exercise and meditation, and therapy, support groups and peer counselling.

But some of the programs available for men struggling with their mental health have stigma attached because “they focus on male perpetrators of domestic violence,” according to an earlier study by Oliffe.


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Montaner said there is a need to better understand the connections between masculinity and mental illness during and after men’s intimate partner relationships.

“If you’re a guy who just wants to reflect on his own behaviour or to try to have a better relationship, there isn’t a lot out there,” she said.

And improving access to men for their mental health is going to have a ripple effect for others they are in relationship with, including ex-partners, co-parents, children, future partners and other family members, she said.

UBC runs, an online resource for men dealing with depression and suicidality.

• If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 for voice (at 1-833-456-4566) and from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. for text, at 45645.



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