Dr. John Oliffe, founder and lead investigator of the University of British Columbia’s Men’s Health Research program, believes that men don’t have to depart completely from normative masculinity to see health benefits. Instead, they can tune into their masculine side by thinking about what they value.
Often, the men Oliffe works with will list values such as “I want to be the best I can for other people” or “I want to benefit other people.” Once they’ve listed their values, Oliffe says he asks what men can do for themselves, so that they can stay true to those values.
“It’s a way of working with a masculine norm,” says Oliffe. “[Listing their values allows men to see] health isn’t a feminized issue: it’s actually me being the best I can be, and it’ll help me with the things I value.”
Oliffe also believes a couple of points may help to contextualize men’s health. First off, men aren’t diagnosed with depression as often as women because the symptoms of depression present differently in men. He says it’s important for clinicians and those surrounding the men to pick up on symptoms such as alcohol overuse, continual anger, aggressiveness, and shut-down in expressing their emotions.
Secondly, Oliffe views the notion that men don’t go to the doctor as a trope. Instead, he says that men may not be getting help because they may not realize how persistent they have to be, and he encourages men to be more resilient in getting the medical help they need.
“This is not a short game at all: it will take a bit of work to find the right help,” says Oliffe.
This is a web exclusive for the article “Breaking The Man Mould” from the June 2020 issue of alive magazine.