With help from Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone, tethr hopes to fight stigma surrounding men’s mental health
Conversations about mental health are increasing, but as we navigate the rollercoaster that is 2020 it’s clear there is still much work to do in breaking down stigma.
Men in particular have a difficult time dealing with personal or mental health issues, as a result of toxic male gender roles that have misled us for too long into believing feelings are not manly. But suicide is the third-leading cause of death in Canadian people under 44, and men make up 75 per cent of those deaths.
“Men are much less likely to report if they have anxiety or depression,” says Ryerson professor and clinical psychologist Trevor Hart. “Feeling bothered and distressed is considered as a sign of weakness by other men, and I’d argue by some women as well.”
tethr is a free downloadable app that aims to change the way men talk about their mental health. It’s a peer-led online community for men to share their concerns and feelings and engage in discussions about mental health.
“It might change the narrative so men won’t only turn to locker room talk when they get together, but actually talk about their feelings and how things sometimes suck,” says Hart.
“I don’t think everyone needs to go into paid psychotherapy. Isn’t it great that there are other possibilities that are low-barrier access?”
tethr is one of the ventures working with Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone, an entrepreneurial incubator. “We were lucky enough to have our app available to download when we joined the Social Ventures Zone, so we really got to go in and fine tune the details with their help,” says Addison Brasil, who co-founded tethr along with Matt Zerker, Burke White and Denny Park.
As we enter our ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health resources are more necessary than ever. Rates of anxiety and depression are higher than before lockdowns and restrictions were in place, and students are missing many of their lines of support as they work and study from home.
“That university experience isn’t there. I feel for the first-year students who aren’t getting that first feeling of community at school, and I feel for the final year students struggling with what their future will look like,” says Brasil.
The app is made up of forums, direct messages and customizable groups for men to communicate as publicly or privately as they prefer, and its website features articles and stories to read and share. tethr also hosts virtual events.
tethr has been downloaded over 13,000 times across North America, Europe and Australia, and it is available to any person who identifies as male. “To me, that’s a no brainer,” says Brasil.
While the app is a step in the right direction, Hart says more resources are still needed.
“I don’t think a single app has the power to change an entire gender role,” he says. “Not only should there be more resources for men, there should be more for all of us. There should be other resources specifically for non-binary people.”
tethr is available for download on your smartphone. Its next event called “We F*ck With Feelings” is November 11 at 8 p.m.