We forget sometimes that men are human and we are not invincible.
Beyond the long, outdated notion that men don’t eat quiche or must at all times be confident, strong, and in control, lies a deeper more pressing reality. Men are human and not invincible.
One in every five men is living in pain, often suffering in silence and isolation, and suffocating under the stress of work and family life.
Bill knows that all too well. Shortly after his 50th birthday, he found himself navigating a new reality. A serious motor vehicle accident meant changes in his life he wasn’t prepared for. Suddenly, on disability after a lifetime of working, and living with chronic pain, Bill found another side effect emerging – depression.
Despite being aware of the depression and its severity, it took him two years to actually make the choice to reach out for help. When his depression escalated to a place where he knew he couldn’t navigate the illness alone any longer, he connected first with his family doctor and then with a psychiatrist and psychologist at the chronic pain centre that he was visiting.
The depression proved persistent and in 2014, four years after the accident, he made his first suicide attempt. Six days in hospital was followed by a two and a half month wait to get into the Foothills Hospital’s day program. It was here that he really found something inside him shift. “As I worked through the day program, I gained confidence, enough to actually go and find a job.” He also talks about the mindfulness he was taught through the program as a critical tool that promoted his wellness.
The physical pain had started to subside prior to his hospitalization, but Bill still had to deal with a depression that wasn’t subsiding. Finding a job and purpose again was huge. For nine months things went well, but the depression was not going away. Things began to backslide quickly and by July of 2015 he was readmitted to the Foothills Hospital. This time he would stay for two and a half months, re-entering the work force immediately upon release.
Bill believes had he taken more time in returning to work he may have been better able to navigate the self-confidence issues that plagued him, the anxiety and workplace stress. A short few months later and he made another suicide attempt, landing back into the hospital until the end of January this year.
Now Bill is taking the time he needs to get well. He talks about a loving wife who has not only stood beside him, but also taken on the business of the family so he can get well. He speaks with pride of his six children that support him unconditionally, despite being “confused” by the illness. And he talks of a dear friend and mentor, Mark, who too has a personal journey with depression and its aftermath. These supports, Bill said, have been critical for him in finding the hope he needs to continue to fight his battle with depression.
Men are not immune to depression. Depression is a condition that has the potential to profoundly impact workers’ health, relationships and productivity. To address this complex health problem, the Movember Foundation funded the BroMatters project to prevent depression in male workers using innovative programs delivered via online and mobile devices. The BroMatters project , over the span of three years from 2015 to 2017, intends to develop two products:
- An e-mental health program that can be accessed via computers or mobile devices. This program can be used by high-risk male workers to reduce their risk of having depression and improve their work functioning.
- Online open access educational resources. This will include the issues and challenges that are often encountered by men in workplaces as well as evidence informed solutions to each specific issue. Men can access this online resource in a confidential way whenever they need to deal with work and stress related issues. This can be a useful supplement to the e-mental health program and the Employee and Family Assistance Program services.
The Research Plan
PHASE 1: A survey of male worker attitudes will be completed toward the perceived helpfulness of mental health interventions. The objective of this phase is to collect information from high-risk men about their attitudes and perceptions regarding various e-mental health interventions and the preferred ways of delivery.
PHASE 2: A study of the effectiveness of the selected e-mental health program in male workers who are at high risk of depression with a sample size of 1200 participants will be undertaken. To do this male workers who are aged 18+ and at high risk of having depression in the future will be recruited from across the country.
PHASE 3: An online educational resource for male workers will be developed. Two hundred and fifty male workers from diverse industrial sectors will be interviewed in depth. Participants from male dominated sectors, including oil & gas, mining, construction, transportation and agriculture will be over sampled. An expert panel that consists of occupational psychologists, human resources managers, male workers and people with lived experience will be established to develop the alternative self-management solutions.
Confidentiality is the priority. Information provided by the participants will be kept confidential. No one except the research staff who are directly involved will have access to the information. No individual names including the employer’s/company’s name will appear or be identified in any reports, presentations and publications. As a token of appreciation, the project is offering a $20 gift card to each participant.
The Key Deliverable
An essential deliverable is the creation and distribution of a web-based e-mental health program, mobile app, and open access educational resources that can be used as a self-management, self-care, and self-help resources by male workers. We believe the project has the potential to:
- Increase user knowledge and awareness of depression
- Reduce the stigma and discomfort men feel in accessing mental health supports
- And lessen the emotional and financial impact mental health concerns have on families, relationships, and employers.
In the final analysis, we want to see “healthy minds for working men.”
Note: If you want to be a part of the project, you can register at www.bromatters.ca/the-project/get-involved