By David Dyck
Last Wednesday, the financial and administrative services committee for the Simon Fraser Student Society unanimously passed a recommendation that approximately $30,000 be put aside for the creation of a men’s centre. Treasurer Keenan Midgley initiated the project. He told The Peak that the proposed center is meant to be a space where men can discuss issues that might arise in their undergraduate careers at SFU.
“There are a number of issues that men face that they don’t really feel comfortable talking about in a formal setting. Whether it’s dealing with alcoholism, drugs, or an abusive relationship. Whether it’s themselves who are in it or emotionally not being able to cope with things,” said Midgley. Instead of a formal venue, such as the walk-in clinic in the Maggie Benson Centre, Midgley thought that a place where men can “bounce ideas off each other” would be more beneficial.
Midgley also brought up the fact that suicide rates are higher among men than women. According to the B.C. coroner’s report from 2008 and 2009, males accounted for approximately 75 per cent of suicide deaths in B.C. The World Health Organization has stated that this gender disparity is observed nearly worldwide.
“Men’s health issues are a serious matter that hasn’t been taken very seriously until recently. The approach won’t necessarily be the same as those for women,” said Martin Mroz, SFU’s director of health and counselling services in an email to The Peak.
“Dialogue and study is needed, and men need to be engaged by the ones trying to create solutions. At this time I don’t know yet what a ‘brick and mortar’ centre would accomplish. I’m happy that this is on the radar, though,” he added.
Mroz cited a 2010 study done by SFU professor Dan Bilker entitled, “A roadmap to men’s health: current status, research, policy and practice”. According to Bilker, the three factors that underlie causes of difference in health issues between men and women are biological, environmental, and behavioural. Of these three, behavioural factors are the most important in addressing men’s health. ‘Traditional masculinity’ has been negatively portrayed as the cause of men’s poor health behaviours, but this portrayal risks: blaming the victim; undervaluing positive male traits; and alienating men in whom we seek to instill healthier behaviours.”
“It might not even necessarily start as a brick-and-mortar type idea,” said SFSS president Jeff McCann, who is part of the three-member working group with Midgley and at-large representative Danielle Hornstein. “It’ll start as meetings and events and programs and speakers and whatever else, to grow the community amongst men on campus.”
McCann echoed Midgley’s comments, referring to the centre as less of a place to address problems formally, and more of a place to invest in relationships that will pay off when problems do arise. “Men are less likely to go to counseling, and that’s the point of having a proactive approach where it’s not about counseling, it’s everything about community and having an informal support network of friends,” said McCann. He stressed that having a woman, Hornstein, on the committee was essential.
“You have to have those allies in other genders to be able to make this really successful.”
The Peak found one other such centre within Canada, in Winnipeg. The Men’s Resource Centre was affiliated with the University of Manitoba until July of 2010, when it came under the administrative umbrella of the Laurel Centre, a non-profit support group for women and children.
On the website for the Men’s Resource Centre, the first goal is “to provide supportive services to men experiencing stress related to historical, situational, or developmental factors, to decrease the likelihood that the man will act in a self- or other-destructive manner.”
The Peak could not find any instances of similar support groups on any university campuses in Canada.
The final budget for 2012 to 2013 will be passed by April 30.