Why Men’s Mental Health?

When a successful, prominent and well-known industry leader in the cycling community died from suicide unexpectedly last year, it shocked and surprised most everyone who knew him. Almost no one had any idea of his challenges and deep struggles with mental health. He spoke to few people about what he was facing and had trouble getting mental health support that worked for him. His journey is an illustration of the endemic challenges specific to Men’s Mental Health.


The Pressures of Being a Man

A report on depression and mental illness by the Canadian Mental Health Association rightly stresses that in a society that celebrates masculine qualities, there is little patience for any show of weakness in men (CMHA, 2010). From a very early age, boys are told to hold back their tears, and men are conditioned to hide their emotions. Men are expected to be able to stoically deal with life’s pressures, be tough, financially successful, and the slightest show vulnerability is seen as a weakness.

Many people, men and women both, experience extreme stress, feelings of failure, depression, mental health struggles and suicide ideation all the while appearing healthy, happy and being highly successful in the eyes of everyone around them.

For many men, self-identity is defined by success in work and career, and for many, lack of, or decline in success, and potential loss of that work and career is seen as a potential loss of who they identify themselves to be. Potential for job loss through normal circumstances such as downsizing, consolidation, etc. is always there and when these events occur, they themselves can be triggers for extreme stress, feelings of failure, depression, declining mental health and possible suicide.

For most men, reaching out for help when experiencing extreme stress, feelings of failure, depression, mental health difficulty and suicide ideation, is contrary to what they have been societally conditioned to do as a man. When they do consider reaching out for help, they struggle with what family and friends will think, and what the impact will be if their employer becomes aware. In management, this can be a career ending event.

In Canada, in 2011, there were 3728 suicides. 2781 of these suicides were male (Statistics Canada, 2014).

Men aged 40-60 have the highest number of suicides in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2014).

Women attempt suicide more often than men BUT men die by suicide three times more often than women (Statistics Canada, 2014).

Middle aged men die by suicide more often than any other group and it is these realities that need to be addressed.

In memory of the ones we have lost to suicide, in the hope that we can help all men who may experience struggles with mental health and suicide ideation, we have created a cycling event aimed at raising awareness of men’s mental health issues, reducing the stigma around suicide and encouraging open discussion.

Join Us. One Great Ride. Just Like Life

 

Register for the Peloton Ride 2019

 

– Derry Bunting, supporter of the Kintsugi Alliance for Men’s Mental Health

The World’s Toughest Ride – LIFE.

I can remember the exact moment I experienced real sorrow. I was nine years old and my father had succumbed to a brain aneurysm after spending thirty days in a coma.

Two weeks previous to his death I had tried out for the AAA Mississauga Reps Hockey and made the team. I shared the news with my dad while he was in a comatose state and he squeezed my hand. Two weeks later, I was told he had passed away. I remember the moment vividly. I was pulling my hockey equipment from the trunk of the car and I had this ominous feeling of dark clouds closing in on me. What was this new feeling? I felt immense sorrow and I still remember that feeling forty years later just like it happened yesterday. That was the moment I was introduced to the darker side of life. Within a year, my eighteen-year-old brother had overdosed on drugs – likely due to the pain he was trying to manage as well. My sister had moved to Niagara for school and my Mom was forced with the choice of being strong and moving forward or surrendering to the despair she must have been experiencing at that point. Her decision to stay strong played a large role in my life and helped me overcome the sudden bomb that was dropped on what I remember as a loving, family unit.

I really began wondering about school, sports, friends, television and even life. I was educated in a Catholic school and I was very disillusioned with the concept of being all loving and all good. Fortunately, I intuitively had enough resolve or naivety at that young age to see the bright side. Despite losing a large percentage of my family young, I still trusted life and believed there were enough people around me that cared about me and that gave me a reason to live. A strong social network appeared giving me a sense of family, but I needed something real and purposeful to do since all the other aspects of life seemed trivial, empty and hollow. At eighteen, I made a decision to open a business and Gears Bike Shop was born.

Going into a retail business was a great distraction from loss and sadness, while the everyday challenges also gave me a great sense of purpose. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by opening Gears I now realize I was searching to establish a new family with the community to replace the loss I had suffered from the outside forces that had struck mine.

Since Gears opened in 1988, we’ve been fortunate to create many experiences within the community that have yielded great things. We raised close to $5 million through events like the 24-Hour Spin and Race Across America. A Women’s Health Care Center was established at Trillium Hospital in honour of my mother, Betty Wallace, whom we lost to breast cancer when I was twenty-three. Many founding charity rides were established – all of which were inspired by a group of cycling friends who all went on to achieve great things for a number of charities.

Today, along with the Humberview Group and Nancy Field of FieldWork Communications, Gears is once again committed to investing our passion and energy into developing a cycling event in support of men’s mental health to honour friends and colleagues who were unable to come out of the dark clouds and succumbed to pain and sorrow greater than most can imagine.

In conjunction with the event, we developed this site to create a conversation about mental health issues and provide hope, light and support as well as raise funds. We’ll be showcasing mental health concerns, initiatives, testimonials, coping strategies and more in the coming months. I will be sharing a few of my stories, the highs and lows of my journey, and my own personal struggle with social anxiety – so stay tuned.

Join us for “One Great Ride” – the Peloton Ride on Saturday, Sept 14th at the Milton Velodrome.

 

Click Here To Register

 

– Kevin Wallace, Founder & Co-Owner Gears Bicycle Shops and Co-Founder of the Peloton Ride for Men’s Mental Health