Where is the Light on Men’s Mental Health?

“Be a man.”
“Men don’t cry.”
“Men are strong.”
“A man does what he must- in spite of personal consequences.”

Why do we tell men that feelings are these awful things and that crying is bad? Why do we teach young boys to shut their feelings out and ignore them in the spirit of “being a man”? We live in a world that values braun and bravery over sensitivity and emotional intelligence and it is an extremely harmful way of thinking.

The world has made great strides with regards to the conversations surrounding mental health, but I believe that there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to men’s mental health. We have come a long way in terms of our thinking surrounding mental health, it is not always looked at as a weakness or something made up. But there are still some really negative thoughts and voices out there in the world.

Something I have noticed is the drastic differences in the ways women’s and men’s mental health are looked at. Women are typically seen as fragile, or delicate (I don’t agree with this but that’s for another time and place), and it’s almost like these stereotypes make it easier for people to hear about women living with mental illnesses.  Men are typically seen as strong, brave, and without emotions. They grow up being told to “be a man” and that “men don’t cry.” What kind of people does this breed? This teaches young men that their feelings and emotions are things to push away and that they are bad. This teaches young men that they have nowhere to go to ask for help if they need it because they will be seen as weak, or scared. It’s stereotypes like these that seem to make it difficult for people to understand that men can and do struggle with mental illnesses.

Why do we send children into the world thinking that they will be looked down upon or seen as less than for reaching out for help? Why do we do this and then wonder why they encounter problems?

This is something that I struggle to grasp. Mental illness does not discriminate when it comes to the people it affects, men and women can and do both suffer from all mental illnesses- and we know this. We have been shown the statistics, and we have heard people speak out. So why do we continue to perpetuate stereotypes that encourage men to hide their problems in secret?

In recent years, there has been an onslaught of women of notoriety coming forward with their stories of living with mental illness. While there have been a few men of similar statuses to share their own stories, there seems to be a far smaller amount. Where is the voice for men’s mental health? Where is the voice telling men that feelings are okay and that it’s okay to cry or ask for help? Where is the voice telling them that those stereotypes, and those moulds they were told to fit into are wrong? Where is the voice telling them that their feelings are valid and that they are just as worthy of support as anyone else and that if they reach out for support it doesn’t make them less of a man?

I don’t know where the voice is that can give us an updated definition of a man, but for the world’s sake, I hope we find it soon.

The D Word

I want to talk about depression. 

I was first told I had depression when I was around the age of sixteen; this was not news to me. By the age of sixteen I was (thankfully) about two years free of self harm but I would be lying if I said that my life had gotten significantly easier. I was living with my mind being in a constant overdrive of feelings. I was experiencing these intense emotions that I just could not understand. I have memories of crying fora seemingly endless amount of time and having no idea what was making me so upset. When my family doctor listened to things I was telling her and them presented me with depression, I was not surprised, but I was scared. I didn’t tell my parents she had said this to me. I didn’t think I could. I was scared that it wouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone: friends, family, teachers, or coaches. I was worried that people would think I just wanted attention, or that they would think I was just weak.

That was six years ago. I wish I could say that things have gotten better for me; sometimes it really feels like they have and at other times I feel like I’m worse off than when I started.

Depression, at its core, is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It has been proven that depending on the levels of certain chemicals your brain produces can have a huge effect on someone’s likelihood to develop depression. Now this is not to say that there are not other factors that play into someone developing depression; there are likely going to be emotional factors, environmental factors, certain circumstances or perhaps even genetics. All of this to say- having depression does not make someone weak. I (now) personally think it’s quite the opposite.

Within the past twelve months, my depression has unfortunately been extremely present in my life and I’ve encountered some stuff that just bothers me. Considering depression affects over 5% of the Canadian population aged fifteen and older, I thought I’d share these things in hopes that someone takes them to heart and avoids some potentially awkward interactions.

  1. Just because I live with depression does not mean that I do not have other feelings. What I mean by this is that let’s say I (a person living with depression) get hurt or offended by something, it does not mean in any way that it is because of my depression. Now for a drastic comparison take someone with a cold/sore throat and let’s say someone punches them in the throat and says that it only hurt because they have a cold? Does that make sense? No. So if you do or say something to me and I get hurt or offended and I try and explain that to you, please do not say that it’s “just your depression acting up.” What I interpret that as is someone saying to me that my feelings are not actually valid and that were I not a person living with depression, the thing that someone did to offend me wouldn’t matter.
  2. Depression is not all that I am. I get that people like to talk to me about my mental health, in fact I love being open about it and doing my part to create conversation surrounding mental health. However, I like it to be remembered that there is so much more to me than just my diagnosis. I’m a social service worker, a daughter, a sister, a proud cat mama, a writer, a fiancé, a graduate and so many other things. So next time you’re telling me a story about someone else you may have met who also lives with depression and refer to them as “someone like you,” please just take a beat, and reconsider your wording.
  3. Please stop suggesting ways for me to feel better. Look I appreciate it when people try to help me. But the amount of times I have had people tell me that exercise is going to magically cure my depression is so frustrating. I have an academic and professional background in social work, I’ve read the studies and understand them. I know that physical activity can sometimes be a huge help for people living with depression. But what I also know is that when I am at my lowest points of depression, I have little to no energy and the last thing on my mind is exercising. The thing that is hard for people to grasp is just how debilitating depression can be and that a lot of the suggested remedies are the very things that depression makes it hard for me to do. If you know someone living with depression and they come to you for advice, that’s one thing. But giving unsolicited advice is ridiculous. Unless you’re a doctor of some sort, if I haven’t asked for it, maybe I don’t want your advice.
  4. Understand that taking medication is acceptable. I’m sure you’ve all seen that picture on Facebook- a split screen image where the top has a picture of a gorgeous forest and says “This is an antidepressant” and the bottom image is of some pills and says “This is shit.” I have so many issues with this image that it would take me countless pages to describe. Depression is so much more than just being sad, for me it is sometimes the inability to get out of bed, the inability to properly take care of myself in so many ways. Getting out into a forest would do nothing for me when I am in those states. Medication helps with what depression is at its core- a chemical imbalance. Please do not belittle someone for taking medication for an illness; you wouldn’t say that to someone receiving treatment for a physical illness and this is no different. Someone taking medication is trying to get better and trying to recover and it is a hard enough road without those kinds of comments. (See image below for reference.)Anti

All this being said, remember that depression does not look the same in everyone. If you want to be the best possible friend/loved one/partner/supporter etc., to someone living with depression, the best thing to do is to ask them what they need from you and really listen. Understand that sometimes they may not know what they need because navigating a chemically imbalanced brain is hard and that’s okay. Be an open ear for them and do your best to be what they need; they’ll thank you for it one day.


She never wrote
with pencils, ink
or typewriters. She
let her words and
stories flow from
her soul. The scars 
have faded over time
but her stories 
are still steeped in
pain. Her words
are coated in
the bitterness of
her mind despite
the fact that 
she does not 
taste it anymore.
She writes the 
stories that her
spirit longs to 
share; but her
lips cannot bare
to say. She wishes
to be immune to 
the trials and
tribulations of
the world,
to put on rose
coloured glasses
and be blind
to the pain
she writes of. 


Since I was
seven years old
I sought comfort
in a magical world.

When my world
became too much,
I took a train to
a special school. 

I made friends
with witches and
wizards, when the kids
like me were too mean. 

I flew in the sky
on a broomstick
and travelled far
away from my problems. 

I fought trolls
and dragons,
with a simple
swish and flick. 

I saw people live
the lives they were meant to 
live, and be unapologetically 

I watched people
rise to challenges
and achieve dreams
they never knew they could dream. 

I read stories
of people I 
wished were a 
part of my reality. 

I saw souls being
sucked out of innocent
people, and was reminded
that everyone has demons. 

Between worn out pages
and scratched DVD’s
the Boy Who Lived
always set me free.


The notion that you 
must be “good enough”
for someone else
will lead you down dark paths. 

It will lead you to
men who will hurt,
use and undermine you. 

It will lead you to
meals unfinished and
a weight that is never low enough

It will lead you to
jobs that do not
value or fulfill you. 

It will lead you to
nights alone with
nothing but wine and tears.

It will lead you to
fresh wounds at the surface
and wounds never tended to at the core.

It will lead you to 
being fearful of
living a full life. 

It will lead you to
reflections of yourself
that you do not like or recognize. 

You are uniquely you
and so full of potential;
once you realize you are “good enough”
for you, 
the rest of your world will follow.

You Made Me What I Hated

You knew I hated winter,
the cold damp air that
hits you deep
in your bones.

You knew I hated snow,
the way it covers
everything beautiful
and makes it die.

You knew I hated cold,
the way it makes
you cover up and
hide yourself away.

You knew I hated cold,
but you hid me
away from the world. 

You knew I hated snow,
but you suffocated my
spirit and tried to make it die. 

You knew I hated winter,
but you made me as cold as ice. 

Stolen Innocence

They stamp us with it when we are born;

The world forces it on us as newborns
and then it is stolen away.

They say that people are products of their environments;
but I say we are products of events.

The world laughs at innocence
before they rob us of it.

They watch us jump through hoops,
only to become jaded.

They find humour in our shortcomings,
and relish insecurities.

They wait until we are on the edge
and watch as we become hardened.

They this –
they that. 

Why do we let them
define who we are?
Why do we let them
steal from us?

Comfort in the Broken

The pen was my
that fought through my scariest

Pages were my
when the world became too

Fictitious characters were my
when real people seemed

My messy, loopy
made more sense than straight and narrow

Stories of broken down
had a beautiful way of making me feel