Approximately one of every five men in Canada will experience a mental health challenge this year. Many will avoid or delay seeking support, which can lead to devastating results.
Dr. Paul Sharp, a postdoctoral fellow with UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program and member of the Reducing Male Suicide Research Excellence Cluster, would like to help men find ways to tackle their mental health challenges through social connections.
Working with Dr. John Oliffe, Dr. Sharp is leading a SSHRC-funded study that will explore ways peer support can impact men’s mental health. The study will take place over the next two years and is currently recruiting participants.
In a Q & A with The University of British Columbia, Dr. Sharp spoke more about the study.
Why are you hopeful that peer support will help men combat their mental health challenges?
We already know that social connections can be incredibly beneficial for managing stress, working through challenging life events, and improving overall quality of life. Men may also find connecting socially preferable to traditional forms of counselling or therapy. Finding support through peers allows men to mutually share experiences and problem-solve in less formal settings.
It’s also encouraging to know that, while many men may be reluctant to seek help for themselves, they are open to helping others. A recent survey of Canadian men found that the majority would be open to helping other men deal with and overcome their mental health challenges.
What methodology are you using for this study, and what outcomes are you hoping for?
The study uses a photovoice research methodology, which invites participants to take and describe photos that depict their unique perspectives and experiences. With this approach, we hope to learn what’s working for men—and what’s not—when it comes to social connection and peer support for mental health challenges.
Ultimately, findings from this research will be used to develop an online resource to support men to engage in peer support for better mental health.
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