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June is Men’s Mental Health Month: We check in with six Northern men


a man in a blue shirt stands on the edge of a cut bank looking over the tree lined landscape
Staying physically active and spending time in the outdoors and with family were common tactics the men we talked to use to stay mentally healthy. (Photo credit: Anne Scott)

June is national Men’s Mental Health Month, and the theme is “Move for your Mental Health.” To recognize and celebrate this important occasion, we asked some men, who also happen to be Northern Health employees, what they do to take care of their mental health. Here’s what they had to say:


Greg Dashper, Nurse, Mills Memorial Hospital (Terrace)

For me, it’s all about work life balance and staying active. I try to balance working at the hospital with doing things outside the hospital that I'm passionate about. I’m fortunate to have a part-time line in the Emergency/ ICU departments, which means I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy skiing, biking, kayaking, and eating good food. I live in Terrace, which offers a wide variety of outdoor activities year-round, so it’s easy to stay active. These activities help keep me grounded and appreciative of my life outside of working hours.


Cormac Hikisch, Health Service Administrator, Northwest HSDA- East Cluster (Smithers)

I took my own mental health for granted until about two years ago, when I found I could do so no longer. Since then it has been a journey of self-reflection and trying new ways to make the most of each day. I accept this is not something to solve, but to maintain.

As always, I try and maintain regular exercise – in the summer I run in the mountains and enjoy the silence and adventure. But, as I now know, running won’t solve all problems.

I take more breaks and have more structure in my day, particularly around recovery time. I meditate. I breathe. I sleep more. I don’t rush (as much!). I am more deliberate. I forgive myself when I slide back into my busy habits, reset, and try again. I listen to those who care about me and take heed when they notice my fatigue or waning spirits. And I try to smile, and laugh, and appreciate the amazing people in my life and successes we have accomplished.


Jesse Priseman Regional Manager, IT Projects & Portfolio Management (Prince George)

I’m a father of two children in a split family, which is very stressful. And there’s never an easy workday in the Information Management and Information Technology portfolio management realm.

I relieve stress through physical activity, meditation, and mindfulness. To keep sane, I practice and coach judo at least three days a week: I’m part of a team of senseis [martial arts teachers] who coach about 120 kids between the ages of four and 19. The coaching aspect can be stressful, but is very fulfilling as your athletes grow.

Outside of judo, I stay mentally and physically connected to nature by hiking, kayaking, and camping (out of cell range).

At the end of the day, hanging out with good friends tops it all off!


Kerry Laidlaw, Hospital Site Manager, Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre - Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay (Queen Charlotte)

1. Work hard and play hard. 

The world will continue to turn with or without you, so I make time to have activities that I love that offset the stresses of work. Fishing on the west coast of Haida Gwaii is my activity of choice. Long road trips – for example, to Dawson City or the great Alaska circle route – are other fun things to do while off work. I trust my team to cover me. This allows me to completely unplug and truly be off work.

2. Whenever possible, celebrate successes and small wins.

How you show up is important. I try to lead by example. If I can, I try to find some positivity in every situation. 

3. Manage time carefully.

Even if your superpower is time management, there’s rarely enough time to get everything done, and falling behind in work can be a major stressor. I try to manage deadlines using my email calendar. For example, I use colours to prioritize items and stay on track, and I block time off during every workday to complete priority items. 


Steve Raper, Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs (Prince George)

To take care of my mental health, I exercise and plays sports like coed soccer, outdoor soccer, and hockey. I also hike between one and five kilometres roughly five days a week. The outdoors, in the winter and summer, and fresh air, are important to keeping me refreshed.

I also try to eat well, spend time with my family, and make sure I find time for unplugging where I can – though admittedly that’s the hardest thing to do.

At work, I try to maintain a sense of humour and to keep things as fun as I can.


Ciro Panessa, Chief Operations Officer, Northwest Regional Hospital (Terrace)

I try and stay physically active and meditate, and some weeks I’m more successful than others.

These days, I predominately use the Peloton app to stay active. Over the course of the week, I try to incorporate a variation of HIIT [high-intensity interval training], strength training, outdoor running, yoga, and meditation classes into my routine.

When the schedule and the weather line up, I try to commute to work by walking or biking - often dropping off or picking up my daughter from daycare en route.

I’m also fortunate that my son really enjoys playing sports. He’s currently in soccer and baseball, and it brings me a lot of joy to watch him play.


Are you a Northern man? What do you do to maintain your mental health? Let us know in the comments!

For more on men’s mental health, check out the Canadian Men's Health Foundation. Their podcast, “Don’t Change Much,” covers “mental and physical health stories and insights with Canada’s top influencers, world-class athletes and health experts.”