Spotlight on Men’s Mental Health Awareness: International Men’s Health Week
International Men's Health Week was officiated at the World Congress’ 2nd world meet on Men's Health initiated by six leading organisations that focus on men's health in Vienna, Austria in 2002. This initiative was taken to raise awareness about the several issues faced by boys and men throughout the world and the need to focus on their overall health and well-being. It aims to shift the focus upon policies and perspectives that would aid their health and betterment. It has been suggested by Western Sydney University for the global communities across the world to come together, engage, and works towards the aforementioned goals.
“Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys”
Men's Health Week is celebrated every year in mid-June commemorating men's health worldwide. The theme to be followed this year is "Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys”, focusing on the critical need to provide a healthy environment for men. In our society, there exists a prevalent prejudice that men tend to be stronger completely overlooking their mental and emotional needs. By celebrating this health week for men, Western Sydney University aims to break the shackles of stereotypes concerning men and the idea of their wellbeing.
How important is spreading awareness about the mental health of men?
The theme helps to draw attention to the fact that a healthy and engaging environment for boys and men is the critical need of the hour. There still exists a taboo concerning the role of mental health in an individual’s overall well-being throughout the world. Not prioritizing mental health only stops people from seeking the required expert help they are in dire need of. This problem seems more problematic for men; hence it is important to exhibit a safe environment for them to fight their mental health issues. Because, poor mental health only exacerbates other problems in life such as complicating one's overall health, affecting one's relationships, and hindering one's productivity at work.
Some of the adverse effects of poor mental health include,
i) Affective disorders
Men lack the proper guidance to tackle their mental health problems, they also tend to be sensitive about it, and our existing stereotypes fail to recognise the problems men face hustling through life. Studies mentioned that depression is more prevalent among men than women, accompanied by stress, anxiety, and other affective disorders caused by tension at home or work.
ii) Substance Use disorders
Men tend to seek aid from various substances to escape from the problems they face. They eventually become addicted to it and particularly alcohol abuse is found to be more common, posing a threat to their physical health. They may affect other walks of life such as familial, intimate relationships, and professional relationships at home and work respectively.
Some men become extremely dependent upon the habit of smoking, especially to relieve their everyday stress and tension. This eventually becomes a solution to any minor inconvenience caused. But this ultimately harms their health and handicap the body's normal functioning, leading to the incidence of terminal diseases such as cancer, liver cirrhosis, etc.
iv) Physical disorders
The co-morbid conditions or the subsequent incidence of chronic diseases due to some of the temporary solutions to one's mental health problems could cost someone's life. Hence, one must receive timely treatment. Lack of mental health treatment could also affect our daily routines such as eating habits, sleep patterns, and lifestyle changes. The relationship with food also tends to be ruined presenting changes in appetite and causing feeding and eating disorders such as binge-eating and purging.
How can we improve the mental health condition of men?
i) Build a supportive environment
For more men to open up about their mental health problems, society needs to provide a safe, accepting, supportive, and non-judgemental environment. As an individual, and as a community, we need to lend a listening ear when men decide to share their issues, and what they are going through, this could essentially be the beginning for them to take further steps. As such, they could expand and seek expert help, and participate in support groups.
ii) Focus on the younger men
Start to notice changes in male kids, adolescents, and younger men, and inculcating the idea that it's okay to feel the things they feel and it's okay to talk about it and seek help when they need it, while they are young could lead them a long way. The environment we build should let them communicate their emotions and concerns and open up discussions about the importance of their mental health.
iii) Guide them
Men tend to drop some subtle hints about their issues especially when they are hesitant to talk about them openly. It’s not always advisable to read between the lines, but if one feels they might require help, they can always guide them to the appropriate resources where they could explore more and find the right medium for them to open up and seek the required help. The government could implement policies in helping the citizens seek therapy, counselling, and medications.
iv) Take enough breaks
Toxic positivity and productivity guilt are ingrained ideas in this capitalistic world, where taking a break, be it short ones or long ones like the sabbaticals, or career gaps are still treated as underwhelming aspects, it's easy for someone to be exhausted from work at home or office and be burned out of all the responsibilities one should fulfill. Stress and anxiety due to burnout are the most common mental health problems one faces nowadays. This could eventually develop into one of the affective disorders. However, it's essential to do some physical activity, listen to soul-soothing music, dance, socialise, meditate, and be close to nature to be happy and improve one's mood.
v) Avoid sedentary lifestyle choices
The global pandemic and its associated lifestyle have made us question most of our lifestyle choices, and it has brought in some good and bad changes in us. We could have easily become couch potatoes, and fallen into the world of binge-watching, and substance abuse. To ensure a healthy lifestyle, choose a healthy diet, exercise, and socialise mindfully.
To summarise, for anyone who is suffering from a mental health disorder, and for anyone who is struggling to talk about it, remember that you’re not alone, and it’s alright to open up about it, seek help and eventually change your life for good and be better.