Why we need to celebrate Men’s Health Week – Donna Thistlethwaite

Do you know that Men’s Health Week is coming up on 14 June 2021? The week is about honouring the strengths of men and their contributions and it’s also about drawing attention to the preventable health problems experienced by our males.

I’ve recently discovered that my 11 year old son has a life expectancy of 78 years whereas a daughter born in the same year (2010) could expect to live to 82.3 years old. “Right from the start, boys suffer more illness, more accidents and die earlier than their female counterparts” according to Men’s Health and Information Resource Centre^.

As an advocate for mental health, I want to shine a light on that specifically today. However, I encourage men and those who love them, to explore all opportunities to understand and improve men’s health next week and beyond. Useful resources include: Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre, The Health of Australian Males and Men’s Health Week.

The leading cause of premature death in Australia is suicide and males make up 75% of these deaths*. 2502 Australian men ended their life by suicide in 2019. That’s nearly 50 per week. Let’s imagine for a moment the attention 50 whales beaching themselves each week might receive then compare it to the attention that given to men’s health. It’s shocking.

It is commonly believed that men’s reluctance to talk or share their feelings, is the cause of the higher male suicide rates. While this may be a factor, what many don’t realise is that more women attempt suicide than men. Unfortunately, the methods chosen by men are generally more violent and fatal.

As a society, we need to equip both genders with the resources and tools to navigate life challenges and to put an end to the number of deaths by suicide.

It can be useful to think about our mental health or wellbeing as a continuum, ranging from thriving to struggling (refer to the image below). If you are thriving you’re in the green zone. If you encounter a challenge there you may slip back into the orange zone, associated with surviving. If you’re already in the orange or red zone this can be a much risker position if you encounter further challenges. Just some of the events that can challenge our wellbeing are:  relationship breakdowns, work stresses or pressure to perform, loss of employment, isolation, adverse childhood experiences, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The more protective factors you have in place, for example, connection, support, exercise, good sleep, healthy diet, relaxation, and activities that you enjoy, the better your wellbeing will be.

I was recently involved in organising a men’s health event for my Chamber of Commerce. We called it “Mental Grease and Oil Change” because it’s a strong metaphor. We know that men are often great at maintaining their ride but frequently don’t maintain their most important vehicle, their body, and mind. Neglecting this maintenance can be disastrous.

Gentlemen, if you’d like some ideas for celebrating Men’s Health Week 2021, check out the official website. There are some great Walks and Talks, meetings and webinars on offer. I’d also highly recommend Blokepedia’s Conversations That Matter discussion with panelists Dr. Clive Williams and World Champion surfer, Mark Occhilupo, in Brisbane on 15 June. You’ll hear some great stories and get some insights on how to deal with life’s challenges. Find out more and book on the Blokepedia website.

If you’re an organisational leader, please give some thought to how you can recognise and support your men next week. Ideas include:  A men’s health discussion, ordering them a conversation starter piece from the TradeMutt range, or chocolates from Yumm.

Keep an eye on the blog during Men’s Health Week for some ideas for support if you find yourself struggling or supporting a mate who is.

 

References:

^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019), https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release

* Men’s Health week website, accessed June 2021, https://www.menshealthweek.org.au/health-info/why-men-s-health

3 Heads Up website, accessed June 2021, https://www.headsup.org.au/your-mental-health/what-is-good-mental-health

 

Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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