Why "Men"?

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Photo by Rick Strong. All rights reserved.

Let's deal with the "Men's" part of the name. Why in our inclusive-minded society, are Men's Sheds exclusively for men?

Men need male companionship and support for life's challenges, in the same way, that women need female companionship and support they find in the Women's Institute, the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE), professional business women's associations, and the like.

Men's Sheds allow socializing to be delivered in a way that will enable men to cope positively with their masculine social needs in these changing times.

It is said that women meet face-to-face, but men stand shoulder-to-shoulder to communicate in comfort. Have you ever noticed that women gathered to talk, more often than not, around a table with their beverages of choice? At the same time, men tend to talk about life's challenges standing or sitting on barstools, side-by-side, or shoulder-to-shoulder?

There are many subtle differences between the way men and women interact socially, many of them completely subconscious. Choosing one set of these rules for a gathering can make an individual feel more or less welcome within a particular gathering.

I will use an extreme case to make the point: in Canada and other western countries, men make up 75 to 80% of all suicides. Yet research out of Ontario shows only 30% of those who seek professional help, are men. Here is why:

The vast majority of the psychological support available to men in our country revolves around talk therapy, which is a "clinical focus on talk, emotional vulnerability, and face-to-face self-disclosure. This is an alienating process for many men."

Men make up three of four diagnoses of substance use disorder.

According to the same review, "many men also report being dissuaded from seeking help because mental health professionals seem to offer services more suited to the needs of women."

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Review suggests this is likely because "mental health professionals aren't doing enough to make their services inviting to men. This leaves men to turn to harmful coping mechanisms, such as drugs and alcohol instead."

To make therapy more inviting to men, they need more access to group and recreational-based therapy groups. Plenty of evidence supports that Men's Sheds easily qualify as one option for such recreational-based therapy groups.

Call to action:
"Let's stop accepting that men lead shorter lives and actively support those working to create healthy space for men – particularly as they age. Men shouldn't have to die quicker."

Shannon Sampert, associate professor at the University of Winnipeg.

Men often associate being employed with a sense of value and worth. Too many men tie big parts of their identities to their careers. This becomes especially evident after they retire when they have time on their hands and a tendency to suffer from isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Loss of social network, identity tied to career, and purpose contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression in older men. It's a significant and growing fraction of our population.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that
men don't ask for the help they need

In Canada, Men's Shed is an unfunded self-help movement trying to fix this.

© 2022 Kevin Ford

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