‘Guys have to talk it out to figure it out’

Calgary psychologist John Roos says that when it comes to talking about personal issues, some men simply cringe and clam up.

He believes that “guys have to talk it out to figure it out,” but as the women in their lives can attest to, that’s easier said than done.

So Roos and Vancouver therapist Richard Somerset have dedicated their careers to helping men do just that, noting a few subjects that guys could benefit from discussing more often.

1. The Blues: Let’s start with the obvious: guys aren’t “supposed” to be moody or down. Roos admits the stigma around mental health continues despite improved resources and public awareness in the past 30 years. “I don’t know that everyone’s conversation skills and language for it have caught up,” he says.

To help move the needle, he likes to explain to his male clients that mental and physical health are intrinsically connected. “If you can imagine it from the perspective of the inside of your body,” he says, both physical and mental health have to do with “all the same nerves, all the same wires, all the same chemicals.”

What helps? Talking things out. Speak up at the next football, pub or shinny night. Or forget what you saw in All About Bob and ask your doctor about chatting with a therapist.

2. Dribbling: No, this isn’t about basketball skills. It’s about something that Roos says comes up often with his clients: male incontinence. The condition is more common than most men realize. According to the 2008 comprehensive Canadian Urinary Bladder Survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid for a group of prominent researchers from across the country, 10 per cent of men 18-40, 16 per cent of men 41-64 and 30 per cent of men 65 and older experience loss of bladder control. Yet only 26 per cent seek help for the condition.

“A lot of men are embarrassed to talk about it,” he explains. Hesitancy to open up about something as common as this often stems from sociological factors such as “how men are supposed to talk about things or what they’re allowed to share in public,” says Roos.

What many men may not know is there is a solution. TENA has a line of absorbent guards and underwear that can make minor to severe incontinence easier to live with. These products can eliminate the fear of leakage and odour, and, no, they aren’t obvious under slacks or jeans.

Talking about loss of bladder control with a pharmacist, or visiting TENA’s website are solid first steps.

3. Balancing act: Moms aren’t the only ones who feel the pressures of kids and career. A January 2017 British study by The 2017 Modern Families Index, found nearly half of working dads surveyed would take a less stressful job to spend more time with their kids.

Roos says family relationships are a regular theme among his male clients.

“A lot of these constructs have changed in the last 20, 30, 40 years,” he says. When it comes to their role at home, younger generations of men seem to have “a value around finding a different rhythm than the generation before them.”

In other words: go ahead and take that surprise day off with the kids and have some fun.

4. Hair today, gone tomorrow: After a certain age, hair suddenly sprouts in places men don’t want it and disappears from places they do. Although it seems a fact of life that is easily handled by most guys, for others it’s an agonizing ordeal.

In fact, in 2013, researchers at Charité – Universitätsmedizin, a teaching hospital in Berlin, found that hair loss in men can be an “enormous emotional burden” that can cause low self-confidence and mental health issues, such as extreme anxiety.

Hair loss, however, is just one of many aspects of aging men find disconcerting. Somerset has helped many male clients who are struggling with the changes that come with getting older, especially lifestyle issues like retirement.

He says all of life’s transitions are far more manageable if men understand and talk about their core values and what gives their life meaning. This can become easier as men age, because, he says, “now they know who they are and what they’re about.”

5. Bad golf game: Many men pride themselves on their golf game, whether with their heckling friends or with prospective business partners. And a bad day of golf can leave a guy feeling like a failure. But it’s not really about the game, is it. Somerset says men often see themselves as not living up to their own – or the world’s – expectations.

Men are afraid to discuss their mistakes, says Somerset, because deep down, they have a fear of alienation. They say to themselves, “If I share this, will you still see me in the same way you saw me before?” he says.

But when men talk about their perceived shortcomings in a safe place, they often feel more connected, not alienated. And there’s an added bonus: “Helping men increase their emotional awareness and their ability to talk about their feelings,” notes Somerset, “gives them an enormous sense of control over how they live their lives.”

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Edge Content Studio, in consultation with Robinsons.

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