Ryan Painter wants men to get in touch with their feelings.
The Greater Victoria School District (SD61) trustee’s new mental health initiative, This Man Cries, connects men and boys to mental health resources and fosters an environment where men are free to feel and express the emotions they were taught to suppress.
“I was taught, ‘men don’t cry, be strong, be tough,’” Painter says. “But I was always an emotional kid, I was always a sensitive kid. I’m still sensitive.”
Painter has long been an advocate for mental health, pushing for LGBTQ rights and mental health awareness. It was during his mental health work that Painter kept coming across startling statistics, like the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian males 15 to 44 years old, or numbers showing how many more men die from opioid overdoses.
“I was thinking, ‘what is it that’s causing this?’ And I think a lot of it really boils down to toxic masculinity,” Painter says. “We don’t feel like we have a way to speak out or really anyone to talk to [and] that leads to mental health problems later in life and then toxic masculinity reinforces men not to show those emotions – except for anger – and that can be hugely devastating.”
The This Man Cries website includes a page of local mental health resources and a blog with topics such as “Six things you never say to someone with depression” and “Ten differences between worry and anxiety.”
Last week Painter launched a Kickstarter campaign with an aim to raise $1,000 by early January to start a ‘This Man Cries’ merchandise line. “Through those sales I can start feeding off percentages of my growth sales to local mental health organizations like the Men’s Trauma Centre,” he says.
While he admits that pre-Christmas might not be the best time to start asking for money, Painter says the site’s kickoff coincided with Movember, a month-long global awareness and fundraising campaign aimed at improving men’s physical and mental health.
And ultimately, Painter has the same goals. The Victoria advocate wants to help break down the walls that cause men to keep their emotions locked up.
“What does it mean to be emotional? To me, it means to cry. I cry a lot, I let it out. I’m not ashamed to say that,” he says. “We have to break down those barriers and allow men to speak out and speak up about their emotions.”
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