In both the U.S. and Canada, one in five people experience a mental health or addiction problem in any given year. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), people who live with mental illness are twice as likely to have substance abuse issues.
The social and financial price tag on addiction and mental health is staggering. The societal costs of substance abuse is estimated at almost $40 billion by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and in any given week, a minimum of 500,000 Canadians unable to work due to mental health and addiction problems, equating about $24 billion a year in lost productivity (read more).
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the U.S., just over half of the 20.2 million adult substance abusers have a co-occurring mental illness. In any given year, 43.8 million adult Americans experience mental illness -- 10 million of which live with a serious mental illness, totaling $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year.
The havoc that mental illness and addiction wreaks is astounding; that so many people suffer and self-medicate is a sad reflection of our times and of our society.
Shame and Emotional Bondage
CAMH reports that men have higher rates of addiction than women do which is not surprising, as men's social and emotional experience is rooted in what could be regarded as an abusive system which gives men only one emotional outlet (anger) and social expectations to uphold a masculine tradition that serves only the antiquated system that created it.
For those why buy into this gender branding, any emotion outside of hard-boiled, mannish anger is an expression of weakness -- an Achilles Heel of conventional masculinity. It is this perceived weakness that conducts a sense of shame, and it is shame that University of California sociologist, Thomas Scheff, says inhibits the expression of all emotions.
"When angry," he says, "shamed individuals are more likely to be malevolent, indirectly aggressive or self-destructive." This opens the door to addiction.
Reduction in Stigma, Freedom of Emotion, and Treatment Options for Men
Modern substance abuse treatments echo our changing attitudes towards addiction and mental illness. Now, rather than suppressing shame and anger, men enjoy more freedom to express themselves and ask for help when they need it, an act that we are beginning to accept as a strength, instead of a weakness.
Statistical data by the Canadian Medical Association around the reduction of stigma associated with mental illness shows that attitudes are slowly but steadily changing. Compared to attitudes of six years ago,
• 57 per cent believe the stigma associated with mental illness has been reduced;
• 81 per cent are more aware of mental health issues;
• 70 per cent believe attitudes about mental health issues have changed for the better.
Unlike the days when drug users were simply imprisoned, more and more addiction treatment centres are opening their doors to men and their specific issues. In Men and Masculinities: A Social, Cultural, and Historical Encyclopedia, Eric S. Mankowski explains the paradigm for men's treatment centres, designed to specifically address the problematic aspects of masculinity:
"Most [men's] groups have guidelines for confidentiality, speaking from personal experience, and not judging other's experiences. These help create a "safe container," enabling men to risk greater self-disclosure, emotional expression, and physical affection.
By drawing out men's personal experiences, fostering intimacy, reducing competition and one-upmanship between men, encouraging reciprocity, and creating a sense of belonging, groups may foster men's transformation of masculine values and socialization and reconstruct traditional definitions of masculine gender identity and roles."
This male-centric treatment model is being embraced by treatment centres across Canada and the U.S., and many centres blend holistic therapies into their regimen. VitaNova in southern Ontario, offers a men's treatment program that incorporates art therapy, yoga and acupuncture with psycho-dynamic and psycho-educational group therapy; anger management, relapse prevention, and teaches life skills. The Canadian Health Recovery Centre's (CHRC) men's program blends physical activities and sports with neuroscience, nutrition, psychological services, wellness activities and massage therapy as a new model for men's healing.
South the border in California, Haven House offers addiction programs like medically-managed detox, residential, outpatient, and day treatment care to promote sober, independent living in their co-ed and single-gender extended care treatment residences. The centre offers treatments for an array of addictions: from drug to sex addiction, to gambling problems and eating disorders. Haven House also treats concurring mental illnesses associated with addiction.
Francesca Adair, Clinical Director at Haven House, explained in an interview how their support programs cater to the masculine experience, which allows their male clients to explore their emotions and revisit their natural human vulnerability. Clinicians at Haven House recognize their client's anger expression as a guise for pain, grief, and other complex emotions. Ms. Adair explains their emotional recognition and expression like a melting process.
The promotion of masculine closeness brings men to an unrealized joy found in each other.
"Addicts come into the centre screaming and belligerent, then go through detox, and three weeks later, they're curled up on the couch talking about the pain they experienced as a child. Men often cry for the first time because they've never had access to these feelings," she says.
Men may feel emotionally isolated and ashamed due to social pressures that prevent them from exploring their feelings. Ms. Adair promotes the "same boat phenomenon" which enables men to become close and open up to other men with shared experiences and feelings, which promotes masculine fellowship and intimacy.
Program Director, Melissa Smith, explains that intimacy is not necessarily a sexual concept, but rather a warm, familiar and human feeling as simple as spending time with male friends, talking together and expressing affection for each other. One client told her that he never thought it could feel so good to have that kind of connection with another person.
The promotion of masculine closeness brings men to an unrealized joy found in each other. With so many men suffering in silence, we should be proud of our progressive social views that encourage and promote men's closeness and acceptance of themselves and each other as comrades, marching together toward a recognition of their fragile humanity.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost:
"For a long time I thought I did too much damage -- drug damage. I was a bit of a drifter. A guy who felt he grew up in something of a vacuum and wanted to see things, wanted to be inspired ... I spent years f--king off. But then I got burnt out and felt that I was wasting my opportunity." [Esquire, 2013]
“Without cigarettes, I would be doing heroin, probably, on a daily basis.” [Blender, 2007]
"I am an alcoholic and a drug addict ... I'm relatively new to being sober, considering the scope of time that I’ve been an addict, but within that scope, this is also the longest I’ve been sober; since iI began using." [Tumblr, 2014]
“The things I was putting in my body, my tolerance got so high. I got to the point where I couldn’t even count how many pills I was taking... I had overdosed in 2007, like right around Christmas in 2007… Pretty much almost died... I scared myself, like, ‘Yo! I need to, I need help. Like I can’t beat this on my own. I think that was my biggest problem… I mean, I’m sure that anybody with addiction—the biggest problem is admitting that you have a problem. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not in control of something.” [Access Hollywood, 2010]
"All those years of snorting coke, and then I accidentally get involved in heroin after smoking crack for the first time. It finally tied my shoelaces together... Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeless state is intervention." [Rolling Stone, 2010]
"I spent most of my life looking for the quick fix and the deep kick. I shot drugs under freeway off-ramps with Mexican gangbangers and in thousand-dollar-a-day hotel suites. Now I sip vitamin-infused water and seek out wild, as opposed to farm-raised, salmon." ["Scar Tissue," published 2005]
"When I was 10 ½, I was sitting in a room with a group of young adults who were smoking pot. I wanted to try some, and they said, 'Sure. Isn't it cute, a little girl getting stoned?' Eventually that got boring, and my addict mind told me, 'Well, if smoking pot is cute, it'll also be cute to get the heavier stuff like cocaine.' It was gradual. What I did kept getting worse and worse, and I didn't care what anybody else thought." [People, 1989]
"I kind of took matters into my own hands and was creating drama in a very dangerous way. I think I was just bored, and I had seen everything. Especially when you're young, you just want more. ... At 18 I had just been doing a lot of cocaine." [People, 2007]
"I was consumed by cocaine, booze and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the Me generation had ended." ["Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS," published 2012]
“Cocaine was even in the budgets of movies, thinly disguised. It was petty cash, you know? It was supplied, basically, on movie sets because everyone was doing it. People would make deals. Instead of having a cocktail, you’d have a line." [Newsweek, 2011]
“I got into a scene. I started going out and taking ecstasy. From ecstasy, it went to crystal meth. With any drugs, everything is great at the beginning, and then slowly your life starts to spiral down. [I was] 90 pounds at one point.” ["Oprah's Next Chapter," 2012]
"I had what they call a 'high bottom, my life didn't fall apart before I got into rehab. I didn't lose my job or run over a kid or injure anyone when I was high. But the hardest thing I do every day is not take cocaine. You don't get cured of addiction -- you're just in remission." [W Magazine, 2010]
"I hit rock bottom when I was doing “The Brady Brides.” I was supposed to be at the studio, screen testing to pick the guy that would play my husband. At this time, I had been up for three days doing coke and was playing solitaire in my closet. My agent had to go to the sixth floor, climb into my place, tear off my clothes and get me in the shower. He said, “You have to get to Paramount right now, and you have a problem.” I couldn’t hide anymore. Everyone knew -- the producers knew, everyone at Paramount knew, the guys testing to play my husband knew. It was the first time I had to face that I really had a problem." ["Today," 2008]
"Withdrawal -- it’s the worst thing. I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain. It was excruciating. At my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been.” [Us Weekly, 2010]
"I was so hooked on opiates [at that point] that I couldn't even leave my bedroom." [Press Conference, 2013]
"I went through heavy, darker times and I survived them. I didn't die young, so I'm very lucky. There are other artists and people who didn't survive certain things ... I think people can imagine that I did the most dangerous and I did the worst-and for many reasons I shouldn't be here." ["60 Minutes," 2011]
"It's been almost 15 years since I smoked last from a crack pipe. It's been almost 15 years since I waited on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx for my drugs." ["Wendy Williams Show," 2012]
"There was about a year’s span that I did cocaine that I was doing it -- you could say -- more occasionally, on the weekend. Then my weekend became a three-day weekend, then it became four, then it became five. I would do so much at a time that I would snort the coke and then I would sit there, I would take my pulse [thinking]: ‘I’m dying, I’m dying, I’m dying.’" ["Howard Stern," 2013]
"I lost everything. It's serious. It's serious when you lose your kids, your children, your wife, your band, your job and you'll never understand why because you're an addict. You can't figure that out." ["Dr. Oz," 2013]
“People don’t take it as seriously as it really is, it’s a mental illness and it’s a disease …There’s no pill that’s gonna change it …People need to have compassion for it …Being a former addict looking at it as I had a choice, because at some point in my disease I didn’t, I physically and emotionally couldn’t live without it, that was my medicine to my pain.” ["Extra," 2014]
Follow Leah Morrigan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leahmorrigan