An estimated 703,000 people take their own lives every year, with nearly 80% of them being male. For many years, men’s mental health has been a critical yet overlooked issue, largely in part due to the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and the false narrative and stigma that men who seek help are considered “weak”. In this blog, we will be discussing five actions that can be taken to improve one’s mental well-being recommended by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, a Professor of Psychiatry at The University of British Columbia (UBC), Director of the UBC Psychotherapy Program and founder of “Heads Up Guys”.
Contrary to the public perception that exercise is solely beneficial for physical health, it is essential for one’s mental well-being. Staying active may be difficult for those working 40 hours a week or more, but Dr. Ogrodniczuk emphasised that physical activity doesn’t have to include going to the gym and lifting weights; it can be as simple as going on a walk or stretching. Regular exercise releases natural feel-good brain chemicals that enhance one’s well-being, evident by the reported 25% decrease of depression in adults who achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Healthy social connection doesn’t necessarily require constant interactions with friends and family. Dr. Ogrodniczuk highlighted simple, yet impactful means of social connection/interaction, such as smiling at the sales clerk when checking out or by greeting your colleagues when entering the office. Humans are social animals and any acts of interaction can make us feel a part of something bigger and less isolated.
A healthy diet including many fruits, vegetables and nuts can substantially reduce the risk of depression, whereas a high consumption of fast food and other processed foods can lead to the opposite. When deciding on a healthy diet, some tips include:
- Balancing healthy fats and avoiding trans fats
- Eating regularly
- Protein with every meal
- Staying hydrated
An individual’s diet is closely associated with how they physically feel and sleep. Therefore, if you eat poorly, you will likely feel and sleep poorly.
Insufficient sleep can directly and indirectly contribute to depression. Sleep deprivation can diminish many brain functions such as decision-making and memory, while also increasing negative emotional responses. Dr. Ogrodniczuk suggested a variety of actions we can take to improve the quality of our sleep, such as restricting from using electronic devices an hour before sleeping, cutting off caffeine after noon and using white noise in a cool, dark room. It is recommended for adults to sleep at least 7 hours or more per night.
Poor stress management can take a large toll on your mental well-being. Among many others, stress creates fatigue and aggression which when continued, leads to depression and anxiety. There are many stress management techniques, including meditation, breathing exercises and communicating your feelings with another. If you still feel overwhelmed with stress, seeing a therapist may be the best option.
Very often, the individual struggling mentally is one of the last people to realize they need help. As men, we frequently create our own stigma due to the existing stereotypes when the reality is people care and are there to help. If you find yourself or another struggling with mental health, please speak to someone because you are not alone.
For more help and information, you can visit Dr. John Ogrodniczuk’s website “https://headsupguys.org/”, where they can provide you with a therapist and other tips on dealing with men’s mental health.