SASKATOON -- The Men of the North group is partnering with a Regina professor for a research project on how to support men’s mental health.

Men of the North founder Christopher Merasty met the University of Regina’s Elizabeth Cooper during last year’s Walking with our Angels initiative.

Merasty walked with Tristen Durocher from Air Ronge to the legislature in Regina to demand government action on suicide prevention. Merasty said they’ll have four men each from La Ronge, Prince Albert, Beauval and Cumberland House, who will represent their communities on different ideas to improve men’s well-being. 

He said there’s a lack of funding available for men’s mental health initiatives, but he often comes across funding opportunities specifically for other demographics, such as elders or youth.

“I think that’s where a lot of our gaps are. We’re taking one side of the approach when it should be a holistic approach. We keep on going down that same road expecting different results,” he said.

Merasty said they’re working on getting as many non-profits on board with the research project to share ideas that would benefit men. This includes the Bernice Sayese Centre in Prince Albert. The ideas could improve a number of issues impacting men, such as homelessness and incarceration.

Merasty said they’ll likely start with ways they can support healing through cultural initiatives and land-based learning.

“I think with that research project and having that guidance and support there, I think then we’re definitely going to be winning and creating a lot of changes for future generations.”

With the help of a librarian, Cooper searched online databases for academic articles about Indigenous fathers — they found under 20 articles published in North America in the last 40 years.

"It's a big gap all the way across different countries, different disciplines, different fields, but it's especially strong with Indigenous men where we don't have research,” said Cooper.

“Men are more likely to have anxiety and depression and other mental health challenges they don’t talk about.”

She explained that women are more likely to attempt suicide, but that more men die by suicide.

There’s also more men incarcerated than women, she said. “We expect boys to not cry and we expect guys to be able to hold it together — do your job and provide for your family, and we don’t give the space to talk about it and so we don’t have the research.”

Men of the North was created about a year ago. Merasty said they host peer support meetings, guest speakers and also fun activities like game nights.

Merasty has seen up to about 55 men take part. Numbers have dropped to about 14 since they went virtual to prevent the spread of COVID-19.