Men’s Health Week 2016

Tomorrow is the final day of Men’s Health Week 2016 – it is also of course Fathers Day in the UK – so what other reasons do we need to talk about male mental health?

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Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is incredibly important, no matter what gender – but the truth is men are significantly less likely to access psychological therapies than woman. In fact, this month the Men’s Health Forum have compiled data focusing on male health, conveying some pretty somber statistics:

  • Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (Reference: ONS)
  • 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women – Health and Social Care Information Centre)
  • Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men

The theme of Men’s Health Week this year is stress – and rightly so. Stress can have many negative impacts on our overall wellbeing; including reducing life-expectancy, increasing the chance of serious health problems and causing damage to our immune systems and heart. Stress can be caused and triggered by so many things, including work, money, family and more. Which is why the powers of be who decided upon the theme of this year’s Men’s Health Week chose to focus on stress and most importantly – beating stress.

Frustratingly there’s a lot of stigma around simply talking about things, let alone actually trying to tackle health when it comes to being male. Being masculine, strong etc. are just some of the reasons why men don’t feel comfortable talking about their health. But, as the Men’s Health Forum have put it… ‘talking about stress is not a sign of weakness. It takes balls.’ Being female I don’t want to sit here and preach about how easy, how simple it is to reach out and discuss things such as mental wellness – because it isn’t easy, and – I think the Men’s Health Forum have done such a bloody brilliant job that I’d feel much more at ease directing you to their website: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw 

But why blog about it? I have three brothers, a soon to be brother-in-law and an absolutely wonderful dad. I also have an incredible network of males in my life – close family friends, uncles, colleagues, housemates, friends and more – some of which have openly struggled with mental illness, and others who would go incredibly far to try and hide their stress.

It’s often said that ‘talking about feelings’ is a feminine thing to do. But that’s stupid. We all have feelings, we all struggle and we all have factors in our lives that we can’t control that lead to us responding in ways such as stress. Talking about things, or even simply having a cup of tea (or beer) and chatting about general health and wellness can be incredibly beneficial.

Whether you talk to your mates, your family or even just take the time to acknowledge how you feel – it’s incredibly important to take that step toward beating stress. This week – or even whenever – take some time to think about how you beat stress – is it effective, are you taking enough time for yourself? Take the time to talk about how you beat stress, and take the time to think about what causes it. 

We need to tackle stress, and release it – whether that’s through sport, music, doing something new, or just chatting to a mate. Start paying attention to your wellbeing – before it leads to something more than just stress.

For more information on Men’s Health Week and battling stress visit the Men’s Health Forum website: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/

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