Thinking about Men’s Mental Health with MUN Minds

This past week while scrolling through The Racket’s Instagram feed, I came across an interesting post from MUN Minds regarding men’s mental health and peer support programs. Maddie Haché, MUN Minds’ secretary and General Rep spoke to The Racket via email about the student society, their support groups, and men’s mental health.

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In case you aren’t aware, MUN Minds is a collection of students attending Memorial University who are committed to breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness on campus by promoting research and projects that are related to mental health. The society also has a focus on the community at large and supports community groups involved in the field of mental health through various campaigns, fundraising events, and advocacy.

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Haché who got involved with MUN Minds because of her interest in promoting positive mental health and passion for helping students find the resources they need said the society offers peer support groups in collaboration with MUN’s Student Wellness and Counselling Centre. “[The aim here is] to provide in-person, non-crisis support to students at Memorial University of Newfoundland who are struggling to maintain positive mental health,” said Haché.

Peer supporters are undergraduate and graduate students at Memorial who have been trained in Mental Health First Aid and who have agreed to protect the anonymity and privacy of students who seek support.

Regarding men’s mental health, Haché believes there is a lot of recent controversy surrounding the topic. From her own experiences in the role of supporter, Haché believes a number of factors contribute to the reasons why men don’t reach out for support including the overall cost of treatments associated with mental health therapy and even racial discrimination.

“[There is, however] another culprit: toxic masculinity, or harmful stereotypes about what it means to be a man,” said Haché. “This is now just starting to come to light and is now being recognized as a legit thing.”

This got me thinking. Perhaps a perfect example of at least racial discrimination and toxic masculinity in relation to men’s mental health is Kanye West. For a while now, the controversial rapper has been a polarizing figure, but perhaps no more so than he was in 2018.

In an essay for the Boston Review, Christopher Lebron wrote that West is an example of what happens when we “dismiss the deep problems of mental health in the black community.” He also presented some sobering statistics.

In 2017, the American Psychiatric Association reported based on results from 2015, that 48 percent of whites receive mental health care compared to 31 percent of blacks. The report also stated that “in addition to receiving less care overall, blacks, when diagnosed, tend to receive the more chronic diagnoses [and] they are more likely than whites to be labeled schizophrenic rather than suffering from mood disorders.”

Kanye West also released his album Ye in 2018. The album’s artwork featured a photo taken of mountains in Wyoming with the text “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome” and featured lyrics in which he compared being Bi-Polar with having a superpower.

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Was this declaration a way to deal with racial discrimination and mental health? Could it have been an example of toxic masculinity and West having to address his mental health in the bravado-filled world of rap? Or finally, was it simply just a man publicly struggling with mental illness and owning it?

Many had their opinions, and perhaps we’ll never truly know what the answer is. Haché is correct though, toxic masculinity has become a hot button topic as of late, especially with the release of Gillette’s controversial commercial regarding the very topic.

With this in mind, Haché wants men, and everyone else to know that seeking mental health support is completely normal. “Mental illness isn’t shameful or a sign of weakness: it’s a genuine and common medical issue, and everyone who suffers deserves help,” she said.

“The best suggestion from me to men who are struggling is that it's alright to reach out,” said Haché. “No one should be ashamed of what they're feeling, and it's alright to ask a friend for help. That's what our resources are there for! If anyone ever needs to talk to me, feel free to reach out to me, [I’m] always looking for a coffee buddy!”

If you or someone you know would like to speak with a Peer Supporter, you can visit us in room UC 6017 Monday to Friday afternoons from 12:00pm-3:00pm. If you are interested in becoming a Peer Support volunteer, you are encouraged to email to munminds@gmail.com. For more information about MUN Minds, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram, @munminds.