UBC team launches support website for men with depression

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Men are strong brick walls that do not let pass any elements of vulnerability or emotion.

That’s the type of talk which leaves men stranded in the case of depression. The stereotypes that insinuate men are not to be seen as weak plays a big role in stopping them from seeking help for mental illness. Described as the “silent epidemic,” depression can lead to suicide, and claims the life of 3,000 Canadian boys and men each year. It’s referred to as ‘silent’ epidemic because there’s an insufficient amount of research and public awareness on the issue as well.

A new website spearheaded by two professors at the University of British Columbia aims to provide guidance and direction to men who live with depression, and was launched during Men’s Health Week (June 15-21).

HeadsUpGuys.ca is a product of a UBC research initiative funded by Movember Canada, called the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network.

The motivation behind the website is to use the Internet and its resources as an alternative way to reach out to men who aren’t reaching out themselves. From practical tips to guidance on what types of people to reach out to, the website helps guys understand what they can do on their own, as well as what they can do with others to further treat themselves.

“Women have a higher rate of reaching out for help and presenting themselves at health services than men do,” said Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, professor in psychiatry at UBC and a founder of the website. “There’s sort of this masculine script that guys feel like they have to play by, where they don’t disclose vulnerability, don’t ask for help, and so forth.”

Ogrodniczuk also said that men who seek medical attention sometimes don’t get diagnosed with depression, as symptoms such as irritability, anger and social isolation are not always indicators of it — but he believes they should be red warning flags.

For those who continue to be reluctant to talk about it, the website helps connect its viewers with stories of men who overcame depression through videos. Numbers of health lines for different provinces and territories across Canada are also listed.

A section of the website is dedicated to crisis situations.

“We provide some direction over what to do. Basically, put your worries aside about reaching out to emergency help, and call 911,” said Ogrodniczuk. “Don’t think of this as anything but just availing yourself of important professional services that are meant for situations like this.”

HeadsUpGuys purposely doesn’t redirect men to person or place-specific services. Instead, it highlights the main mechanisms of depression treatment such as pharmacological medication and talk therapy and what types of people offer those services (psychologists, psychiatrists, employee support services, etc.)

The website is one of five projects that are planned by the 35-member team behind the research initiative. Other projects include a community-based program for First Nation boys and men, one for an older age group including those with prostate cancer, another for men in university, and a suicide awareness photo exhibition.

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Behdad Mahichi is currently an Editorial Assistant at Vancity Buzz and a journalism student at Ryerson University. He writes about anything from entertainment and politics to his misfortunately extreme caffeine addiction.
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