SFU Student Society approves men's centre

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) has approved $30,000 in its next budget to start a men's centre at Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus.

The funding is equivalent to that received by the SFU Women's Centre for programming, said proponent and former SFSS treasurer Keenan Midgley. The women's centre receives an additional $65,000 for a paid staff person, while the men's centre will start out as a volunteer-run facility.

Midgley, an accounting student, proposed the centre to provide peer support for men in areas such as relationships, health issues and mental health that often don't get talked about.

"Men have that social pressure to be that strong man and not really show their emotions and I think that kind of leads to further problems for mental health down the road when they don't feel comfortable talking about their issues," he said.

In addition to peer support, the centre would serve as a referral service to health and counselling at SFU.

Many men simply don't seek out help on their own, and the informal setting of a men's centre could help change that, he said.

"I've experienced that social pressure to kind of 'man up' ... I know that I'm not the only one that's experiencing that."

Midgley, 24, noted that one statistic is telling—that men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide.

And while the women's centre does good work, he said, it needs to be recognized that there are differences between men and women. "Each gender has different issues that need to be addressed."

He noted that the SFSS is in good financial shape, so "we should be looking at expanding our services and I think this could be a worthwhile service."

Martin Mroz, SFU's director of health and counselling services, supports the concept.

"What Keenan is trying to do, I think is admirable." In his discussions with SFSS officials, "I know they have good intent."

Mroz confirmed that, in general, men don't look after their health as well as women, and visit the doctor much less.

Mental health issues also come with a huge stigma, so much so that after birth control and sexual health, the most common issue students seek a doctor's help with  on campus is mental health.

If they see a counsellor, it means there's a problem with their head, but if they see a doctor, it's just a medical issue, he explained. The latest SFU statistics, from 2009, show that women students are twice as likely to seek counselling than men.

From an early age, men are taught that "seeking help is not a masculine thing to do," Mroz said.

"I know some people have thought, 'okay this is going to be a cigar and whiskey club or something like that with pinups on the wall,' but the intent is try to create a space for more self-referrals."

Mroz noted that his department, health and counselling services, will work closely with the SFSS so those operating the men's centre recognize when to refer people for help.

A representative from the SFU Women's Centre did not return a call asking for comment by the NewsLeader's deadline.

However, the website of the women's centre, which opened in 1974, perhaps sheds some light on its perspective. In its "frequently asked questions," the question of "where is the men's centre?" is answered with, "The simple answer is that the men's centre is everywhere else."

If all goes as planned, and a space is found for the men's centre on campus, it could be up and running by the fall.

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