Identifying Places That Foster Mental Health And Well-being Among Rural Men

June 2021

It is commonly understood that there is a lack of available resources for mental health and well-being within rural communities. Researchers from the Centre for Critical Studies of Rural Mental Health at Brandon University recruited rural men living with mental health challenges to examine places that they feel contribute to their mental health and well-being. The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 rural men. Findings from the interviews may help practitioners to encourage their clients to use place-based strategies to manage their mental health and well-being. Here are the brief highlights of our findings:

The Diversity of Places:
Rural men identified everyday natural places as important and accessible therapeutic places in their rural communities. Examples of these places included backyards, farmland, golf courses, and waterbodies, to name but a few.

Benefits Derived from Places: 
Some men identified certain everyday places as therapeutic even when they were not physically in these places. They imagined these places (e.g., playing golf and noticing wildflowers) and the feelings they had of these places in times of crisis. Men emphasized how places made them feel, using words like belonging, calm, freedom, and connection. Most importantly, the men emphasized that certain everyday places, particularly natural environments, provided an accessible and non-judgemental space for coping.

Social Connection:
Everyday places provided men with important social resources such as feelings of trust and a sense of shared interests with others. For men, everyday places have contributed to forming relationships, and engagement in regular activities, though volunteering or engaging in place-specific sports activities (e.g., hiking, biking, quadding, or hunting). This finding highlights the agency of men living with mental illness or poor mental health to develop care networks.

Barriers to Accessing Everyday Places: 
Men acknowledged barriers to accessing everyday places that contributed to their well-being such as lack of social spaces in rural communities, lack of social spaces that are health promoting, limited hours of those spaces that are health promoting, and a lack of anonymity in accessing everyday spaces that foster mental health in rural communities. 

Connecting Mental Health and Environment: 
Rather than viewing rural places as lacking resources, it is critical that health practitioners and communities think about how to make the best use of everyday therapeutic landscapes to promote better health and wellbeing. 

HP Rural Men Mental Health j

By: Mairo Ahmadu, Rachel Herron, Candice Waddell, and Jonathan Allan.

Mairo Ahmadu is a Research Assistant in the Rural and Remote Mental Health Lab.

Rachel Herron is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Brandon University and a Canada Research Chair in Rural and Remote Mental Health

Candice Waddell is a registered Psychiatric Nurse and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Studies at Brandon University

Jonathan Allan is a Professor in the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, Gender and Women’s Studies Program, and a Canada Research Chair in Men and Masculinities.