Movember Canada funds men's mental health research

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Older men have the highest suicide rate in Canada, and their risk increases after retirement. Through a $575,255 grant from Movember Canada, Dr. Marnin Heisel, of the Departments of Psychiatry, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and a scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute will lead new research to enhance their mental health and well-being and reduce their risk for depression and suicide.

The average adult spends more than a third of their life at work. Work life has a major impact on many men's identities, acting as a key source of friends, interests, and support. While many men look forward to pursuing social and leisure opportunities during retirement, others feel disconnected and lost, putting them at risk of developing mental health problems. For men who spent much of their adult lives focusing on work and productivity, retirement can signify an end to meaningful activity and a loss of social engagement.

Previous research from Dr. Heisel and his colleagues shows that people who experience meaning in life are less likely to suffer symptoms of depression and thoughts of suicide, even in the face of stressors, challenges, and transitions. Research also shows that enhancing the perception of meaning can have positive benefits for health and well-being.

In this new project, Dr. Heisel's team will work with community partners to offer community-based groups for soon-to-be or newly-retired men over the age of 60. The groups will bring men together to build camaraderie and share ideas about how to find meaning in retirement. Initial groups will take place in London, with future groups to be convened by research colleagues in B.C. and Alberta. At the end of this three-year study, the team will evaluate the outcomes and disseminate study findings and recommendations for running similar groups across Canada. Overall, the goal is to enhance psychological resiliency and to reduce the risk for depression and suicide.

Dr. Heisel and his team anticipate the results of this study may have positive benefits for health and well-being in the workplace. They believe that study outcomes could lead to opportunities for wellness programs that employers can use to enhance mental health for employees approaching and entering retirement. As the baby-boomers reach retirement age, and the older adult population continues to grow at a rapid rate, these preventive strategies are increasingly important to ensure men at risk have access to the resources they need.

"We are very grateful to Movember Canada and to all of the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who raised funds to support men's mental health initiatives, including this innovative project," says Dr. Heisel. "Funding from Movember Canada will help us to make a difference in the lives of men looking for meaningful ways in which to focus a lifetime of experience to continue enjoying life and contributing to society."

Funding for this project is provided through Movember Canada's, "Canadian Men's Health Network Mental Health Initiative," in conjunction with the Canadian Men's Health Network (CMHN). A total of 39 projects were submitted to the competition. Dr. Heisel and colleagues' are one of just seven teams that received funding.