So this week see’s the annual event for Men everywhere, Men’s Health Week, which addresses the health needs of men, but why do we need a week dedicated to the health of men?
It is a long standing fact that men do not like to talk about their problems, whether it be relationships, lumps, bumps, emotions or feelings, they are all things that many men seem to feel reluctant to talk about. I have often wondered why that was, as I have on the whole always been fairly good at talking about myself and indeed any problems I have had rather openly, or so I thought.
As I started to dig deeper into my past, and really think about how open I was with people I started to surprise even myself, my mental health problems as a teenager, they must have started early and yet I kept them a secret for years, even when they were forced out I chose to ignore them. But why was this?
I was scared, afraid and worried, not of the problems themselves, but of how other people would see me, after all I didn’t want to be viewed as a just another “problem”. I think the one major issue I thought I faced at the time was to have people seeing me as “weak”, which is now officially a word I hate!
The point is I eventually started talking, and once I did it, it became a whole lot easier!
While the problems surrounding stigma are gender neutral and affect everyone, especially when we are talking about mental illness, if you couple this with the reluctance of discussion in men about health then you have a bigger problem.
For men to talk about their health problems, especially emotional ones can be seen to strip one of their masculinity, it’s largely not an accepted conversation to be had with a bunch of lads, I remember the first paragraph of a blog I wrote for an eating disorder recovery website, It strikes me as a rather true (although generalist) statement;
"Football, Rugby and beer, three things guaranteed to get a lot of men talking! But if I was to walk into that same room and bring up the subject of eating disorders, deathly silence. That silence would be followed by the usual assumptions that eating disorders are a “girl’s illness” and “oh that’s what model’s get”. So when it comes to getting help, are we so surprised that men just don’t come forward?"
Does it ring true to you, can you have a conversation about mental health with your group of mates?
While I accept it is not always the easiest conversation to have, it should be one that people can feel able to have with their mates. The debate about men and talking has sparked numerous campaigns supporting men’s health and trying to make health easier to talk about, which has worked to an extent in opening the dialogue between the health professional and the male, but not much has concentrated on engaging fellow men.
This is what Men’s health week is dedicated to, making sure that men feel able to speak about their issues, the theme this year is digital, looking at ways we can embrace the internet to improve outcomes amongst men.
So this week I am going to try and do a couple of blogs about the digital world and how it can be used to improve outcomes in men with mental health issues, while encouraging men to engage in conversation about their “feelings” and “emotions” using the charity I help run as an example, alongside others.
So do look out for my blogs on digital health and Men during the week and let’s see if we can get men talking!