While #MensMHDay 2017 has come and gone, I’d like to take this moment to reflect on what we accomplished in 2017 and plant the seeds for next year’s campaign.

By way of background, Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day was founded by Jean-Francois Claude in 2014. Jean-Francois has lived experience with depression. Like many men, he hid his suffering for many years. Subsequent to his reaching out and diagnosis, he looked at his conduct and the issues surrounding men’s mental health, issues like:

  • men are less likely to recognize the symptoms of mental illness in themselves;
  • men are less likely to seek help;
  • men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide;
  • that these circumstances result in approximately 3,000 men dying by suicide each year in Canada alone

and felt that these facts require us to engage in conversation about mental health that is specifically targeted to men. He believed then, and believes now, that a mental health day for men is part of this necessary conversation.

While Jean-Francois is active on Twitter in raising these issues, his is one voice. Consequently, he reaches out to like-minded individuals in order to have this message spread. These like-minded individuals are asked to approach officials in their local communities and raise awareness of the issues particular to male mental health. This has resulted in the steady growth of awareness about #MensMHDay.

This year’s campaign was the most successful yet. Community representation grew from 4 to 14 including Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Regina, Burlington, and all of Durham Region (Ajax, Brock, Clarington, Whitby, Pickering, Uxbridge, Scugog, Oshawa and Durham Region). Each community – many for the first time – issued proclamations that recognized the importance of a dialogue about male mental health.

But official recognition is only part of the solution. In addition to proclamations, community involvement was also reflected in other actions:

  • there was the 1st Annual Men’s Mental Health Breakfast in Burlington;
  • there was representation of #MensMHDay at the 1st Annual MH Walk in Scugog;
  • there was activity on public media including an interview on CTV in Regina;
  • there was widespread recognition of #MensMHDay on Twitter as several agencies including the CMHA, MDAO and Healthy Minds Canada all included the hashtag in their tweets;
  • the CMHA went a step further and numerous branches devoted part of their website to supporting Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day;

plus talks given by Jean-Francois and others at numerous forums. In addition, there was a #MensMHchat that took place on Twitter.

Please remember that all of this activity was undertaken by Jean-Francois, and others, because of their belief in the issue.

All of this meant that on June 13, 2017 men’s mental health and the issues specific to men were in the spotlight. But despite the success of a few days ago, it’s clear that we can do more. Certainly, we can encourage more communities to become involved. We can keep talking about the issues that men face concerning their mental health. We can normalize the conversation. And we must, because 3,000 deaths a year in Canada are too many.

What can you do to make next year bigger and better? I quote from TheMensDEN.ca:

“The Men’s D.E.N. is looking to expand its campaign next year. But we need your help. We are looking for mental health champions in communities across Canada with a particular interest in promoting men’s mental health. At a minimum, we are asking you to contact your local municipal Head of Council requesting that your municipality proclaim “Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day” in your community. You are of course encouraged to promote this initiative via social media, inviting your Friends, Followers and Contacts to do the same. Finally, if you are successful in getting this Proclamation through your local municipal council, you might want to consider marking this special day with an event. For example, in its inaugural year in Ottawa, we held a special presentation ceremony and media photo opportunity in the Mayor’s Office, followed later that day by an information session on male depression featuring an expert panel and a lived experience testimonial. Please contact founder Jean-François Claude through this website if you wish to get involved or require more information. Thank you!”

Thank you for supporting Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day in 2017. Thank you for supporting mental health every day. But, if you are like me and believe that more needs to be done, please consider answering Jean-Francois’s request and promote Men’s Mental Health Awareness day in your community.

About John Dickson

A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.

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