Men's Health Week
Men’s Health Week
Men's Health Week is an incredibly important time of year. But Men's health shouldn't just be for a week, it should be for a lifetime.
Men around the world struggle. The statistics show this. It's not about who's struggling more or in what ways, what's more important is that men don't appear to tend their health as much as they should. Did you know, according to Macmillan, that around 50,000 men had missed a cancer diagnosis in the pandemic? (Men’s Health Forum, 2022) Yes, this is understandable given the nature of the crisis, but these figures are yet to normalise in the ways they should. It's clear - Men just aren't doing enough to look after themselves. But given that this issue is almost pandemic in itself, and a lockdown wouldn't help here, why are Men struggling in the ways that they are, and what can people do to help?
This shocking statistic should substantiate the above –
75% of suicides (3 out of 4) are by Men. (Men’s Health Forum, 2022)
So, with Men around the world suffering from an abundance of widespread issues, raising awareness is crucial. And this is exactly what Men's Health Week is for. The main body pushing this incentive in the UK is the Men's Health Forum. This organisation is pushing awareness and knowledge of how Men can improve their lifestyle, their understanding of how being a Man in society is affecting them, and what they can do to help themselves and others to live a happier and longer life.
By highlighting statistics and figures to help Men understand themselves, it's easy to think that improvements are inevitable. But that's not always the case. Firstly, everybody needs to spread these figures to the Men around them, support by talking about the above themes, and try their hardest to support Men in any way they can. Just having a chat about feelings, emotions and mental health has been proven to help in so many ways, all anybody has to do in order to start meaningful change is to talk about it.
So, what does this look like at DCA?
Well, DCA has taken this ethos on board too; by talking to Male Carers belonging to the organisation, DCA has gained an understanding about Male Carer wellbeing in the current climate. The organisation asked questions like, 'How do you think being a man could be affecting how you're feeling?' and 'Do you think [this] is affecting your caring role?'
The results were insightful and so a huge thanks to those who took part.
The following responses are taken from two Male Carers (Both Anonymous)
A simple question that’s not asked enough – How Are You?
‘’A changed person, in behaviours but also outwardly not the same. Covid also had a massive impact. The intensity of my caring increased in August 19 so a bulk of it impacted by Covid. My partner is vulnerable so we have been very careful, and are still being. So overall not good. I thought I knew myself well but the challenges that have presented themselves over the past 15 years, particularly the last 3, have shown behaviours in me that I don’t, didn’t recognise, and struggle to control. I react before the brain kicks in. Much more anxious, over things that never bothered me. I get agitated quickly. More or less constantly worried, on alert. Unable to plan further than the actual day. Frustrated that life has fallen off a cliff, and getting it back beset by challenges. Creating the plan very hard.’’
How do you think being a man could be affecting how you’re feeling?
‘‘Not sure that it’s a man thing? I would went to boarding school at 9. Army father. You shook hands with parents. So became a survivor quickly. Independent. Initially looking after younger brother. Emotions stamped down. Internalise everything. Not a talker about feelings etc. Affects what family is and means. No caring or nurturing training. Of course didn’t realise all that at the time but that my goodness really see it now. So, is it a man thing, women went to boarding schools too?’’
Do you think the above is affecting your Caring role?
‘‘Hugely. I am a good practical doer carer. But the people I care for - partner who cares for her mother and when partner not well = about 50% of the time, there is no family support at all, so it’s then me. So, on the emotional side, which has been so needed, I have fallen down badly. I have been unable to meet the emotional nurturing challenge, and my partner just has me.’’
How do you think the above issues could be addressed?
‘‘An understanding and resource built into Adultcare that understands this. That really meets the challenge that carers face, not just the person being cared for. It’s not leaflets and links, it’s personal care. We had to work really hard to ensure we had Care Plans for my partners mother, my partner and me, showed the links.... the better the care for mother, the better my partner could be and then me. The care system (including health) is fundamentally broken. We have had to work extremely hard when we have been at our lowest.’’
What kind of events would you like to see/do you think could help with make caring specifically?
‘’Personally, I think a support group where men could talk to each other. Either face to face or via zoom.’’
''I enjoy the shared reading and the creative writing offered as the people presenting them are very friendly, we all think very differently, and it helps keep our minds 'thinking', so maintaining such offerings certainly would help me in keeping my mind active, and having social interaction on enjoyable themes that is an escape from normal life.''
Lastly, why don’t you think men are talking about these issues?
''Whether it is inherent, or a taught thing, I think men overall do not express their emotions and feelings, which talking about such matters would expose. We are after all from Mars. This could be toxic for some, but for me it is an expectation for me to be there, reliable, and strong. Despite the pressures this can sometimes cause, I would not change this, as I feel I am strong-minded, so it also gives me some pride and satisfaction that I can care for my family. But I can see how this pressure could become overbearing for some, and I am certainly lucky enough to have been in a position to take early-retirement to do my carers role, so feel for those who are balancing it with other work/life pressures.''
Answers from Anonymous Carers.
It’s clear that a mix of feelings is present, and a theme of confusion through contradictory emotions accompanies that mix. With expectations of Men to perform in a certain way, in addition to the possibility of certain Men thinking that is how they themselves should be, 'Despite the pressures this can sometimes cause, I would not change this,' (Carer, Anon) it's safe to presume that Men's attitudes to being a Man could benefit from a healthy shift. However, a shift in this mind set doesn't need to be polarising – it should allow for the complexity of emotions inherent to all humans to be accepted by Men, instead of encouraging Men to change completely.
With another Male Carer stating to DCA that men are, ''too embarrassed [and] don't know how to say how they are feeling'' this shift to promote the acceptance of emotions and the importance of self-care is integral to positive change.
To summarise, all everyone needs to do is to make sure to talk about Men. Talk to your friends; your family; your boyfriends; your partners; your sons; your fathers; your team; your colleagues – Men deserve to be human first, and the first step to allowing for that is to see how they're feeling.
Men's Health Forum - https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/