The UBC Men’s Mental Health Club (MMHC) formed officially this past summer, by a group of friends with the goal of encouraging open discussion and support for men to combat a toxic culture of silence. They held their first event in June, taking a dip into the waters at Wreck Beach to kick off men’s mental health month.
We sat down with co-president Pierre Kahwaji, a third-year biology student, to talk about mental health and building a culture of asking for help.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What exactly is the Men’s Mental Health Club? What are your goals?
What we want to do is form a community of men on campus that support each other through [non-judgemental] open discussion. Even with ourselves and in our own friend groups there isn't that give and take, where you can really open up about something you've been going through. We want to start that conversation.
I saw you set up a booth on Imagine Day, how did that go?
We had over a hundred people put their email in our mailing list. Some people were saying, "Oh, I always thought there should be something like this." And now there is. Our initial idea was that there was a hole that needed to be filled and clearly there is one, so that was good to see.
Talk to me about that initial idea. Where did that come from?
Well- How do I put this? I was the kind of guy who would laugh at someone if they went to counse[l]ling. I was like, ‘Why would you do that? I can figure everything out on my own.’ And then I got hit hard, over and over, and I actually sought help, and started going to counselling. And it helped.
I didn’t even know about the resources for counseling at the time … I wish someone would have told me earlier. I wanted to be able to provide that for other guys on campus, so I brought that idea to my buddy Alex [Beschea], who's the other co-president. We felt like if we can be leaders, and we can show that we seek help, then more guys will follow.
What kind of events is MMHC looking to hold, then?
We took a dip for men’s mental health in the summer, which was a sober event. One of the core values of our club are sober events — we want to show that, okay, sure, going out to a club, drinking, all that's fun, but how fun was your night if you can't even remember it the next day? We want to show that you can have fun and meet people and do all that stuff sober. We also want to run fundraisers for mental health associations. In November, we're planning to run a Movember campaign, trying to get a huge group of guys to grow out their mustaches.
Is the club only open to men?
Yeah, we get that question a lot. We only have one event we're planning that's exclusively for men. We call it our Open Up event. We would book a room in the Nest and form small discussion groups where we’ll pose questions. We'll start it with fun, silly icebreaker questions to get people laughing, and then we'll throw in some serious questions to get people thinking.
For that event, we're going to start it off as exclusively for men because we feel like they will be more comfortable that way. But everything else is fully open: our social events, fundraisers, all of that is open to everyone.
Interested in the UBC MMHC? For more information, find them on Instagram @ubcmmhc