A Men's Centre in Saskatoon?
“Real men don’t need a men’s centre.”
This was one response to our survey about the possibility of creating a centre for men here in Saskatoon. Whether this response was tongue in cheek or serious matters little as the words reflect a long-held attitude about men asking for and receiving help in our society.
We are a group of individuals in Saskatoon concerned about the lack of dedicated services for adult men. In November of this year we began a broad-based survey of professionals, politicians and other community members about the possibility of creating a men’s centre in our city. Our discussions and action have been spurred by the various problems that men confront in today’s world.
According to Statistics Canada, men are (after adjusting for longevity) dying at higher rates than women in 14 of the 15 major causes of death including:
- men are 39% more likely to die from diabetes
- men are 55% more likely to die from cancer men are 64% more likely to die from pneumonia and flu
- men are 78% more likely to die from heart disease
- men are 80% more likely to die from kidney disorders
- men are seven times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS
In addition, men are four times more likely to die from suicide and at least ten times more likely to assault their intimate partner than women, 91% of provincially incarcerated inmates in Canada are men and 95% of federally incarcerated inmates are men as well. Statistics show that 98% of employees in the most physically dangerous professions are men, while 94% of those dying in the workplace are also men. Men are twice as likely as women to suffer alcohol or drug addiction and some studies suggest that men are ten times more likely to have a sexual addiction like internet pornography.
Yet men are more likely than women to give a low priority to physical and mental health. The majority of those who have not seen a doctor in five years are men; men will often only seek counseling under court order or when given an ultimatum by a spouse or employer. Many fathers today wish to develop alternative parenting skills to those they learned from their own fathers, but they often struggle to create those skills in isolation. Some men are quick to critique services for women but unwilling to do anything for themselves or each other.
As a society we should be worried about men’s well-being. These issues are important because they affect our children and they impact the safety and well-being of women. But men’s overall health is important for the sake of our men as well. A society where a large number of its members are dying at unnecessarily high rates, being incarcerated, assaulting those around them and hurting themselves is not a healthy society. As a group, we feel men are capable of more and able to learn new ways of parenting, relating to women and responding to each other.
Saskatoon service providers have tried and continue to try to reach out to men through offering counseling and support through specialized clinics and treatment programs. But the men often do not attend. As a counselor for men, I know that it is all too common that the first and only call I receive about a man in trouble comes from his wife, his sister or his mother. We men do each other a great disservice by calling each other “whiners” and “sissies” when we ask for help or want to talk about our problems. We mock counselling for men and harbor “magical” thoughts like “If I don’t get a check-up I won’t know I have a problem and maybe it will go away on its own.”
Saskatoon needs what other places already have:
a centre dedicated to men's lives.
Many North American communities have worked to address this problem by establishing men’s centres or men’s resource centres. These services take a variety of forms but they all operate from the belief that some men may better respond to dedicated services where they are treated with dignity, respect and confidentiality.
In Ottawa, there are two men’s centres: one created by angry and depressed fathers and another run by professionals and offering localized counselling and medical services to men. In Victoria, B.C., there is another men’s centre organized by men who feel hard done by in court custody agreements, Vancouver has the same service but also offers an agency that works with adult male survivors of sexual abuse. Toronto has the men’s health network which offers counselling, medical advice and peer support along with a special project for fathers. Montreal has numerous services dedicated to men and Halifax is the home to the Men4change group that does work with men and boys throughout that region. Winnipeg has the Men’s Centre at the Elizabeth Hill counselling centres. There are men’s centres in places as small as Nanaimo, B.C. and as large as New York City, and a growing network of men’s resource centres includes groups in Japan, the U.S. and Great Britain.
Here, in Saskatoon, we have the opportunity to learn from what has come before. Mindful of and with appreciation for the paths that have been blazed by the feminist movement we can create a place where men can receive support, information and challenge in an environment that is respectful. A men’s centre here need not draw on public funds for support and can avoid becoming a place where women are viewed as “the enemy” or where gay men feel unwelcome.
We think it is time to take some positive action and we look forward to your support!
~ Bruce Wood, on behalf of the board of directors