When she first started looking into what mental health resources were available for men a few years ago, Candace Chisholm was not prepared for what she found.
Chisholm is co-founder of Okanagan tech company hechangedit. She launched the company with her husband after working for a non-profit, with services primarily for women and children, but often getting calls from men inquiring about mental health resources.
Now, the company has developed the ‘he app’ for men’s mental health and wellness.
“I always had a place for women to go, but for men, everything out there was really reactionary,” said Chisholm. “You had to be addicted or going through some kind of anger management. There wasn’t really anything with a proactive approach.”
After leaving the non-profit she did extensive research into statistics and what mental health resources were available to men. What she found was staggering.
“Five men, every hour, die by suicide in North America alone,” she explained. “Eleven Canadians die every day by suicide and eight of them are men.”
Further research revealed many men struggling with mental health issues, by all appearances, seemed like they had it all. A good job. Family. Success.
“That just didn’t sit with me,” said Chisholm. “I have two sons. I have a husband. I just didn’t want a world that didn’t address it.”
Chisholm also found several men she interviewed, from every walk of life, shared many things in common.
“It really came down to a couple of things,” she said. “Loneliness, because they felt they were the only ones going through this, and purpose was the other one that came up. So we wanted to make sure that men realized that they aren’t alone, that there are a lot of guys out there who just want to connect.”
That was the beginning of the ‘he app’.
“Gender norms have been the way they have for so many generations,” added Chisholm. “It’s been, man up. Suck it up. Move forward. But the world has really shifted and we figured it was a good time to bring something like this into the market.”
“The app is really in its infant stages right now,” explained Chislom. “The plans that we have for it, we’re so excited to bring them forward, and we’re updating as we go.”
Chisholm’s husband Mike hosts podcasts through the app called ‘heCast’. Guests have included Humboldt Broncos crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki, local business owners and residents, and a soon-to-be-released podcast featuring Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron McLean.
“Some of the men on the podcast have lost children or gone through a divorce, or lost businesses,” said Chisholm. “These are things that create stresses, that if you don’t have some way to manage it, they can have devastating results.”
The app also includes a community just for men to share. Chisholm felt it was vital they have that space.
“We were intent of having that community be that,” she said. “Our mantra is ‘take what you need and leave what you know.’ You know things other guys can glean from, but you can also take from that too and add to your life about how to navigate a new situation.”
Chisholm pointed out, that as a society, we still have stigma around mental health, but it’s not a word she likes to use or hear.
“This isn’t just about mental health, she said. “This is about all levels of your fitness. It’s like riding in a car with a flat tire. You may not even notice it for a while, but eventually, you hit the rim and you stop. That’s really indicative of how what it’s like to balance our fitnesses.”