HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND: A LOOK AT THE 2017 MEN’S HEALTH WEEK OR RATHER, THE LACK OF IT

The first time I came across something called the Men’s health Month was when I was assigned to write an article about it and I’m pretty sure this is your first time hearing about it too. Here’s why.

Let me digress for a bit. Now I am a person who spends a lot of time on the internet googling and it acts as my source of information to get to know of the various happenings around the world, be it social movements, politics, celebrity gossip, viral dank memes or even Donald Trump’s somewhat amusing tweets. So when I googled about Men’s Health Week to get to know more about it, I expected to find a lot of information on the topic for my research– various forums discussing it, amazing websites dedicated to spreading awareness about the cause, even a few celebrities endorsing it. But all I found of much significance were four pages- A website very dedicated to the cause in Australia and other active websites based in the US, New Zealand and the UK and a few blogs articles here and there.

It was shocking how little information was on the internet about this.

Now I say shockingly little because, on an estimate, Google spits out about 10 million results under a minute for a search on any given topic. But when I googled about Men’s Health week, I did get those estimated 10 million results but only very few had actual, useful information in them.

And I haven’t even gotten to the more startling part yet. When I added a little keyword next to my search called “India”, there were ZERO results of significance. “Men’s Health Week India” had ZERO useful results and all that popped up were articles from “Men’s Health magazine”. No wonder no one knew about it.

Now after digging around some more, I found the central website dedicated to this event – (www.menshealthmonth.org) and on there are some 19 countries that have taken up supporting this cause but only 9 of them have dedicated websites amongst which Australia has 2. India is not on there.

And to confirm my findings, I referred the National Health Portal which publicises of all health-related information to the public and “Men’s Health Week” did not find a place on there. India, however, celebrates Health Week observed from April 4- April 10 to mark the World Health Day on 7th April of every year.

Now that I’ve put this information up to you, let me give you my opinion on why Men’s Health Week should gain more publicity around the world and become as important an event as International Yoga Day.

Men’s Health Week was started in the United States by the US Congress in 1994 to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. And Australia’s main theme for this year’s event was “HEALTHY BODY – HEALTHY MIND: KEEPING THE BALANCE” which explores the different ways men can manage being both physically and mentally healthy. Now, this is a crucial theme that holds great importance. Many people have started talking about health and are taking various active measures to become physically fit and lead a healthier life. But discussions are still of very few numbers when it comes to talking about the mental health of men and that is what the world needs to recognise and take measures for.

According to statistics, around 510,000 men commit suicide every year.

A study conducted in the UK in 2013 states that amongst the 6233 suicides recorded in the UK in the 15 years or older demographic, 78% were male and 22% were female. In the US on the other hand, in 2010, there were reports of 38,364 suicides out of which 79% were men. These numbers are no joke.

Men are at a higher risk of falling victim to depression and anxiety because of extreme stress. Most of the stress can be attributed to societal pressures. A lot is expected from men and although the world is progressing, a majority of the people still have an orthodox mindset with regard to familial roles. Men are still expected to be the breadwinners of the family in a lot of societies and become financially secure at an early age. They are told to be strong, courageous and to show no signs of weakness. What this does, is cause more harm than good. Men are shown to less likely get access to psychological therapies than women and only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men. And most of these estimates do not boast a lot of accuracy because of the huge possibility of under-diagnosis.

In India, mental health related issues are still a taboo in most parts of the country and there isn’t enough awareness created amongst the common people to even identify that they’re facing a mental health related issue and should seek help for it. Most men do not properly identify their issues and tend to attribute it to fatigue, stress and assume that what they’re going through is just a phase in life that every other man goes through too. And the men who do manage to narrow down the problem forgo receiving help because of fear of being ostracised and looked down upon by the society. However, India, now, is slowly realising the importance of the mental health of its citizens and with the passing of the recent Mental Health Bill, we can expect an increase in discussions related to mental health. We need to become more open-minded and raise our boys to be strong.

But strength doesn’t lie in hiding one’s weakness, it lies in seeking help to overcome their issues. Men go through an immense amount of stress and they ought to be raised in an environment where they feel comfortable to openly talk about it and get help. Creating awareness is the need of the hour.

Even if the government does pass bills and publicise events like these to create awareness, the public must be willing to realise this issue and embrace change. The only ones who can change the minds of the masses are the masses themselves. So here’s to hoping that this same June, next year, a little more of the world and India especially, get to know about Men’s Health Week and come forward to talk about it. After all, we’re all looking for support and happiness in this changing world and maybe, we might just find it in each other.

 

Important websites to refer to –

·        http://www.menshealthmonth.org

·        http://www.menshealthweek.org.au

·        https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk

 

 – Srivasupradha R

 

 

A One-Man Battle

“Oh my god, are you really crying over this? Don’t be such a girl!  Come on, be a man!”

Since their childhood, men have been taught to hide their feelings, masking their sensitive side with a strong and impassive exterior.

To cry is termed as “girly” and emotions are usually dismissed, asking them to “man up” as opposed to seeking help.

These kinds of social norms around masculinity can be extremely detrimental, especially when it comes to your mental health. It can make it really hard for many of us to acknowledge when we’re not doing too well and even harder to reach out to potential sources of support that can help us during that time.  The greatest evidence of male vulnerability is in suicide statistics. Among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male.  It was also found that men are 50% less likely to seek help, even from close friends or family.

Shawn Henfling Quote

As of February 4th, 2016, according to the Office of National Statistics UK, there is a significant gender gap in British suicide, with men more than three times as likely to kill themselves as women. The same scenario is seen in the case of people undergoing treatment for alcohol and substance abuse.

This paints a very clear picture. Women are more likely to seek outside help, while men prefer to bottle up their feelings. They aren’t inclined to talk about issues they might be facing, and as a result turn to alcohol or drugs for solace. With time, this leads to their abuse and manifests as a violent social behaviour. This is why men’s mental health is often termed as a “silent crisis”.

The first step towards helping yourself is to identify some telltale symptoms of depression and anxiety. These can include:

  • Increased anger or irritability
  • Eating disorders
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Constant anxiety and fear.
  • Increased need for alcohol or drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts or inflicting self-harm
  • Frequent violent outbursts
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviour
  • A feeling of hopelessness

These symptoms if gone unnoticed or not acknowledged on time can extend for months or even years. It can adversely affect your work life as well as your private life. If you feel like you might be facing the beginning of any mental illness, do not consider it as a sign of weakness or failure. Instead, seek help from someone you are comfortable with and trust me, they will be only too happy to help. It is perfectly okay to confront your inner demons by seeking outside help, and in no way does it make you any less of a man.

So to all men out there, remember, it does not always have to be a “one-man battle”.

 

-M.A. Ramya