Hey you guys – looking after the men in all our lives
This month incorporates both Men’s Health Week (June 13 to 19) culminating in Father’s Day on June 19 - so blokes - pay attention and find out why you need to put some time and effort into your health and wellbeing to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders.
Dads, sons, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, grandads and uncles – we all have special men in our lives that we would be utterly lost without. But when it comes to men’s health – all too often blokes keep quiet about troublesome health problems and feelings relating to stress or anxiety for fear of losing face, being labelled as ‘weak’ or of being accused of being unable to cope with the stresses and strains of life.
Are you firing on all cylinders?
According to the NHS, statistically men visit their GP half as often as women do and men are also less likely to attend routine screening checks. As a result, says the NHS, a staggering 100,000 British men die prematurely every year as a result of neglecting their health – whether its failing to get a lump or dodgy mole investigated straight away or from untreated stress or depressive illness – don’t be another statistic. If you have a health problem or lingering concern, don’t leave it, see your doctor. For five urgent health symptoms that men should never ignore, visit NHS Choices.
Most men place a lot of emphasis on being strong and resilient when it comes to illness or injury, possibly partly because it is often expected of them from a young age – have you ever overheard anyone tell a young boy to “man up” as a result of showing his emotions? It’s all part of the problem. As a result, generations of men have been conditioned to bottle their emotions, worries and pain up inside for fear of appearing weak in front of other men, their partners and potential partners. Many men have an “I’m alright”, “It doesn’t bother me” or an “I’m a fast healer” attitude to health, usually as long as they are able to work, they feel that they must be ‘well’. Secretly, men may be suffering and have the same health worries as women – they just don’t talk about it nearly as much as they perhaps should.
It's good to talk
As a general rule, women are pretty good at communicating how they are feeling to others and usually have a couple of close friends that they will confide in and seek advice from when they’ve a pressing problem or health worry. It’s probably fair to say that, typically, men are not so good at this. While ‘modern’ men are getting better at discussing the more personal side of life with others as deep-seated perceptions of gender roles continue to shift, too many men are still bottling up their worries and problems and this can lead to significant frustration, stress and angry outbursts. Prolonged periods of stress - if left to progress and get out of control - can lead to mental health problems, including depression and suicide - tragically the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45 in the UK.
While most men also have a handful of close friends, they’ll frequently use time spent together to catch up on sports/work talk, reignite the Xbox One vs PS4 debate or just meet up for a beer or two down the pub on a Thursday night. It might be 2016, but when it comes to talking about emotional stuff and health worries, too many men are stuck fast in the past. Bob Hoskins said it best in that old BT TV ad – it’s good to talk. Listen to Bob.
What if, try as you might, you simply find it impossible to force the words out or don’t have anyone that you feel close enough with to discuss sensitive issues?
Don’t despair. Help and support is always at hand and there’s no need to suffer in silence. Just one of the beauties of modern life is that you can do almost anything online. There’s a vast range of online resources available for you to seek advice, get support and even just vent your spleen to an unbiased person without worrying about the consequences of what you have to say, should you feel the need.
And this advice is not just limited to your own situation – if you notice a male friend or relative has seemingly gone off the radar, check in with him to make sure he’s OK and to let him know that you are available if he needs a listening ear.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - a charity dedicated to helping men tackle mental health issues - publish a range of articles, real-life experiences and information on depression and related conditions. CALM also offer a number of services including a helpline and a live webchat where you can access anonymous, unbiased and confidential support and advice.
For General & Medical members, you have unlimited telephone access to specialist teams of experienced, qualified and trained counsellors who are on hand to provide support and assistance on a wide range of issues. You can find out more about this in our Personal Healthcare brochure.
Find out more information on men and depression.
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