A B.C. professor is sounding the alarm when it comes to the issue of men’s mental health, especially during the pandemic.

HeadsUpGuys, based out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, receives over 60,000 visits a month.

The organization saw 750 people from Prince George access the program.

However, for the first few weeks of Covid-19 related restrictions, visits took a dip according to the founder.

“As people were struggling to find out what Covid was and what their risk was for catching and perhaps dying from it and what the implications were if you weren’t part of that conversation, you weren’t really relevant at that time,” said John Ogrodniczuk a professor of psychiatry at UBC.

“People were really hyperfocused on Covid-related things and we were not. People weren’t talking about the mental health implications yet.”

However, as people started to adapt to a ‘new normal’, mental health became a major talking point when it came to implications of isolation.

“It’s hitting us all in a peculiar kind of way because it confronts us with not being able to do the things that they feel they ought to ‘as a man'” said Ogrodniczuk.

“Men often have this socialized sense of needing to provide for their family. If they are not able to work or if their work is reduced, the income is not there, they find they don’t have a purpose, it hits them really, really hard.”

With the loss of purpose, comes isolation, says Ogrodniczuk.

He adds men in northern BC have a unique set of challenges when you combine the pandemic with ongoing strife in the forestry sector.

“In the industries that have been hit really hard by this, the work just isn’t there.”

“If you go looking for alternate sources of employment to generate some income and those things aren’t there, you feel very frustrated and very helpless. ”

On the website there is something called a ‘stress test’ and the top five listed stressors, pre-Covid, were loneliness, and lack of meaning.

“So you can just imagine now with Covid and all the limitations that it’s putting on people’s lives, how it’s really going to accentuate these stressors,” he said.

The virus is not going away anytime soon, so Ogrodniczuk is urging men to connect with each other and ‘just talk about it’.

“What you will often see is that people will not only emphasize, but they will also share a similar story,” said Ogrodniczuk.

“It’s crucial to find meaning for yourself in other ways. We can’t physically be close to others right now but there are other ways to connect.”

He started working in the field two decades ago but started Canada’s only men’s mental health research program with his colleague John Oliffe.

One of the things that has stood out to him is that men do not generally go and utilize mental health services ‘nearly as often as they should.’

“Typically if you look at any outpatient psychiatry clinics, for example, only about 30 percent of attendees are male. We also know that men have a very high suicide rate, about 75 percent of all suicides in Canada are men.”

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