he adds. This self-perpetuating message
runs below consciousness. “It takes a
conscious override to say, ‘I need to talk
to someone about the distress I am feeling.’
If you haven’t had practice at it, you
need to do so.”
Depression, anxiety and alcohol use
are three big mental health challenges
that men commonly wrestle with in
their lifetime. But their attitudes and
behaviours often leave them ill-equipped
to face them down.
Ten per cent of men experience
symptoms of mental health disorders and
substance dependencies, according to
the Canadian Mental Health Association.
While vulnerability and a willingness
to talk openly about their feelings are
hardly male hallmarks, they are helpful
traits for improving mental health.
Why are men reluctant to admit to
mental health concerns?
“In general, men identify themselves
Beat cancer with
in terms of strength and learn very early
to hide signs of what may be considered
weakness,” says Dr. Michael Trew, senior
medical director, Addiction and Mental
Health Strategic Clinical Network,
Alberta Health Services. “To identify
or acknowledge struggling feels like
failure. So we try and hide our failures.”
Additionally, men compete and
don’t want to reveal vulnerability,
For many types of cancer, how we live
determines our risk for the disease.
“For a healthy lifestyle, avoid things
like smoking and excessive alcohol
consumption, and try to have a healthy
diet and exercise,” recommends Ruether.
Risk factors related to lifestyle include
eating a diet high in fat, red meats and
dairy products; stress; tobacco use
and a low level of physical activity.
Non-lifestyle factors include being
over age 50 and family history.
“When it comes to cancer, the biggest
differences between men and women
are really psychological and social,
with women more inclined to share
information and seek support,” says
Ruether. “Men are more isolated.
I’m not sure there are big differences
Men need to have a conversation with
their family physician about screening
for prostate cancer at age 50 or earlier.
For men at average risk of colon cancer,
screening begins at age 50.
“The Canadian Cancer Society has
good information about cancer risk,”
says Ruether. “I would encourage people
to visit their local cancer agencies for
other educational materials related
A matter of size: The midsection spread
When watching sports, a lot of guys like to look at the predicted point
spread before a game, trying to figure out who is most likely to win. One
spread they can’t always figure out is the one on their own midsection.
Knowing the right portions of food and drinks and choosing healthier
options, whether it’s during the big game or sitting down with family, are
just a few of the ways guys can get healthier, say experts.
But it’s easier said than done. For many men, just setting one healthy-eating goal can be a difficult first step toward lifestyle change.
“The biggest challenge for most adult Canadians is to achieve a healthy
body weight,” says Dr. David Lau, president of Obesity Canada and editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Diabetes. Lau is also professor of
Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Julia McFarlane
Diabetes Research Centre, and chair of the Diabetes and Endocrine
Research Group at the University of Calgary.
“We tend to overeat and not do enough exercise.”
Talking can help
It’s at this juncture women can help.
“Men are more likely to talk to women
than other men about struggles of various
kinds,” says Trew. “If women hear these
kinds of messages, it’s important to
acknowledge there may be some reality
to it. If the man got up his courage to
say something, the last thing they need
to hear is something to the effect it’s not