Health & Wellness

Men Don’t Get the Mental Health Care They Need

Available mental health services don’t do enough to help men, according to a leading Canadian journal

Photo: iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz


Canada’s mental health system isn’t doing enough to meet the needs of men with mental health problems, according to a review in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. As a result, depression in men often goes unnoticed or untreated.

Depression has generally been found to affect more women than men. Rates of depression rates have been twice as high for women between the ages of 14 and 25 as they are for men, but as more research has been done to look at the mental health problems particular to men, it seems that gap may be closing.

A StatsCan survey looking at mental health disorder symptoms and substance abuse showed that Canadian men and women experience almost equal levels of distress, with 11% per cent of women reporting distress and men just a point behind at 10%. In the United Kingdom, research has shown that depression rates are actually higher for men. In Canada and other western countries, men reportedly make up 75% to 80% of all suicides.

Despite that, research out of Ontario shows only 30% of those who seek professional help are men. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry review suggests that it’s likely because mental health professionals aren’t doing enough to make their services inviting to men, leaving them to turn to harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol instead. Men make up three of four diagnoses of substance-use disorder. In British Columbia, men accounted for 80% of the deaths caused by fentanyl.

A lot of men also report being dissuaded from seeking help, according to the review, because mental health professionals seem to offer services more suited to the needs of women than to those of men. While the vast majority of the psychological support available to men revolves around talk therapy, “a clinical focus on talk, emotional vulnerability, and face-to-face self-disclosure may be alienating for many men,” the review states. To make therapy more inviting, more options should be made available to men, with more access to group therapy and recreation-based therapy groups.

Public health campaigns also miss the mark, the review observes, by frequently engaging in “victim blaming”—by pointing to masculinity as the problem and telling men to stop bottling up their emotions, public health campaigns not only put the onus on men to solve their own problems, but also oversimplify the problem by failing to look at things that affect men that are beyond their control, such as divorce, unemployment, and a lack of social support.

Until things change, the review states, men may continue turning to dysfunctional coping strategies such as substance abuse and suicide.