November 19 marks International Men’s Day. A day where we focus on men’s health and wellbeing, start discussions that strive to drive equality and celebrate the value that blokes bring to their communities and families. Dr Kieran Kennedy explains.
This year’s International Men’s Day theme has been outed as ‘making a difference for men and boys’, a cracker that sparks us to truly think about the health of the men and boys we know around us. It’s a cause that founds the very base of what it means to be a man in today’s fast paced modern world, from which all other positive parts that men have to play in society depend on.
When it comes to men’s health, we’ve made some solid gains in recent years. We’re healthier in a lot of ways than we ever have been before, and we’re living longer. But for all our gains we’ve still got a way to go. And so crucial to the positive impact that men bring to the world around us, is the ground we’ve still to make when it comes to the mental health of boys and men.
As a whole, stigma and public knowledge around mental health is the best it’s ever been – but particularly for men, it’s something days like today need to bring into ever-sharper focus.
Mental struggles and illnesses rank among our leading causes of disease and disability worldwide. Estimates from the World Health Organisation posit that more than 200 million men and counting suffer some form of mental disorder. We’re more connected, fast paced and on the grind (and grid) than ever before, but it’s our mental health that’s really lagging.
Here too in our own back yard, boys and men continue to struggle with wounds we can’t always see.
Depression, anxiety, substance use issues and suicide rank among the leading mental health hits for men. Estimates point to nearly 1 in every 4 of us going through anxiety at any one time, and our latest national mental health survey racked up a near on 50% incidence for some form of significant mental health struggle at some point across a lifetime.
On top of that we know that blokes are far more likely than women to keep our mental pains bottled up inside.
Statistics point toward up to 3/4 of men never seeking help for mental struggles, and suicide rates account for one of the leading causes of death in young men across the globe. Six of every eight people passing away in Australia each day at their own hand are men.
The factors keeping us men silent when it comes to our mental muscle are likely many, but staunchly traditional views around what it means to be a man might just be part of the puzzle. An ‘it’ll be right’ attitude, association with emotion as weakness and a fear of being seen as losing control make many men keep their pain in the shadows.
Checking in and chatting with family, friends, a GP or another mental health professional about warning signs, both physical and mental, can make a huge difference. Issues with health come in all shapes and sizes, and our health of mind is without a doubt no different.
Thinking about mental health and being open to the fitness of our mental muscle too can well and truly change a life. A mind needs attention and time, just like our heart, the bones or those family jewels.
Reflecting on this year’s theme gives men, and us all, a fantastic opportunity to assess whether what health and wellbeing really mean. For boys and men alike, health of mind must now, more than ever, equal that of body. Sure we’re fitter on the outside, but we need to know that it’s the inside too that counts.
Struggles, tough times and mental illness is plain and straight a fact of life. And just like that cough and cold, it comes with zero shame or failing. It’s time for men to begin to reach out, open up and think about the thinking.
For us men, and the women in our lives too, that comes with knowing it only benefits our boys who need to know it’s safe to do the same. The time is now to truly know that our inner is as deserving as our outer. And if you’re in there, doing it tough, just know that mate – you’re not alone.
If you or someone you know needs to talk, find out more or get some help, reach out. See your GP, contact Life Line Australia 13 11 14 or touch base with your local area mental health service by googling your local area name and ‘mental health service’. For more information on men’s mental health and places to get help check out www.beyondblue.org.au
ABOUT KIERAN KENNEDY
As a Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident with degrees in Psychology, Physiology and Medicine/Surgery, Dr Kieran Kennedy is a respected health and wellness advocate who holds a passion for furthering the mental and physical health of the modern man and woman.