Written by Matt Sha on August 25, 2021

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought lockdowns, physical distancing, and public health guidelines making social connection—a crucial piece of the mental health puzzle—increasingly difficult. Prior to COVID-19, and the social changes that came along with it, male suicide rates were already high and rising resulting in a great cause for concern.

During the UBC Reducing Male Suicide (RMS) Virtual Panel, “Getting upstream to prevent male suicide, we heard from three researchers from the RMS cluster:

  • Paul Links is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University
  • Francine Darroch is an assistant professor at Carleton University and an affiliate professor at UBC in the School of Nursing
  • John Ogrodniczuk is a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the UBC Psychotherapy Program

Dr. Paul Links discussed his published review looking at the relationship between infectious disease-related public health emergencies, such as the 1918 Influenza pandemic, and the outcomes of suicide behaviour and suicide. He noted that there does seem to be a link between pandemics and the increased risk of suicide-related outcomes. Additionally, Dr. Links left us with a question given the current normalization of telehealth: “We already know that sometimes we have trouble working with men who are at risk, assessing them, because we know we miss the cues of men. How do we do [virtual care] effectively?”.

Dr. Francine Darroch detailed the relationship between physical activity and mental health from her research, which aims to “leverage physical activity to improve quality of life and provide psychosocial benefits”. However, she mentions that the pandemic has created “unprecedented barriers to physical activity access”, especially for individuals living in marginalizing conditions who have experienced a “huge decrease in access to in-person services”. The result has been an increase in sedentary behaviour, which in return has impacts on mental health.

Yet, there is still hope in these difficult times.

Dr. John Ogrodniczuk shared about his recent experiences with men reaching out to him:

“I think one of the things that COVID has done is provide an opportunity to have conversations about mental health in a way that we haven’t before and that’s really important”

He continued by mentioning, “People are getting the message, guys in particular, with my private practice a lot of guys are reaching out with simple messages: ‘I think it’s time for me to talk to somebody, I don’t know where to go, can you help?’”. Although many individuals felt isolated and disconnected during the pandemic, these unusual times sparked a conversation between guys about their mental health and reaching out for professional support.

Furthermore, Dr. Ogrodniczuk adds, “It’s a hard thing for guys, but I think with all of the conversations that are occurring now because of COVID, it has opened up the door a little bit more for them”.


Hear the full conversation with Dr. Links, Dr. Darroch, & Dr. Ogrodniczuk