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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Beyond ‘I’m OK’: The Conversation #Men Need About #Suicide

Men—particularly those in their middle years—die from suicide at higher rates than practically any group, and it’s made them a crucial group for mental health workers to reach

#Men—particularly those in their middle years—die from #suicide at higher rates than practically any group, and it’s made them a crucial group for #mentalhealth workers to reach

In this country, men die by #suicide at three times the rate of #women — a long-term, consistent trend, according to Statistics Canada.

Men in their middle years die from #suicide at higher rates than practically any group, and it’s made them a crucial group for #mentalhealth workers to reach.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Whether you’re a professional or a concerned friend, that’s easier said than done.

“In the field, you’ll hear that ‘#men don’t talk,’” says long-time City of Edmonton social worker Dean McKellar

The difference, he says, isn’t that they don’t talk — it’s that they talk differently.

“If you ask a guy ‘how are you,’ you are going to have to ask him three or four — maybe even five times — and each time you’ll get a different level of response,” McKellar says.

It might take a few false starts, a few ice-breaker conversations or cancelled appointments, but #men approach services differently because of a “friend or foe” social condition, not because they’re trying to be difficult.

Success can depend on showing them you’re a safe person, and on building trust without rushing it.

“My experience with #men is they let you in one layer at a time.”

This approach may not fit with how the system traditionally works, but the system still needs to take note, says McKellar.

“It’s about working with #men instead of working on #men, about engaging #men where they’re at and letting them determine the pace of engagement.”


Jag Atwal knows first-hand how one conversation can make a huge difference.

He just wishes he could have had that conversation sooner.

When a close friend of his died by #suicide, it was a wake-up call, he says.

“We started realizing, ‘if we know this little about #mentalhealth, imagine how many other people know just as little,’” he says.

Atwal organized Edmonton’s first annual Breaking the Silence event in 2015, to promote local #mentalhealth services and help teach people how and when to reach out to loved ones in distress.

He learned how powerful and positive it can be to talk openly about #suicide, and how to recognize the signs that someone is considering it.

He learned how important it is to promote services for survivors: when someone dies by #suicide, the chances grow that someone in their social circle will attempt it too.

“The reduction of #stigma is really designed to let people know it’s OK to reach out for help, it’s OK to talk to your doctor, it’s OK to start this process.”

Today, Atwal works for Alberta Health Services, helping fight #stigma in AHS workplaces and create environments that promote psychological well-being, such as through education and support programs.

So much good can come from helping people in distress have that first conversation — with their family doctor, with their friends — but, far too often, #stigma stands in the way.

“The reduction of #stigma is really designed to let people know it’s OK to reach out for help, it’s OK to talk to your doctor, it’s OK to start this process,” Atwal says.


For David Long, a sociology professor at The King’s University in Edmonton and a long-time researcher in men’s health, it’s old news that #men, especially in middle age, need special attention for #suicideprevention.

“#Male #depression is actually way more common than anyone acknowledges, or maybe understands,” says Long.

But #mentalhealth, he says, can only provide part of the answer.

“My question is, what on earth is going on in their life that it’s leading to this,” he says.

Greater social isolation, divorce, #depression, major life events and losses — awareness is growing about how men’s inner lives actually work, and about what makes the middle years unique and uncertain.

Uncertainty, too, comes in many forms.

Some of it is economic, when #men become less employable because of their age or industry, especially in some traditionally male-dominated lines of work.

Some of it is social.

Many #men are left with questions about their own identity — Who am I? What am I supposed to do? Am I not needed anymore?

“That idea about what it means to be a man is shifting, and I think we’re almost at a cultural tipping point,” says Long.

#Men, in all their diversity, need to be able to talk these questions through.

Giving them the support and spaces to do so was a role once filled simply by friendships and community.

In Edmonton, Long says he’s been pleased to see community — including a list of community initiatives — step up once again.

“It’s ugly to talk about #suicide, it’s hard … So what do we do?” says Long.

“We actually talk about it.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Living Hope: A Community Plan to Prevent #Suicide in Edmonton.

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