November of each year has become known as Men’s Health Awareness Month in the UK. While the term ‘health’ covers all aspects of male physical health, an increasingly important focal point of the event and supporting campaigns is men’s mental health as well.
November is now ‘Movember’
Driven by the leading charitable organization in the field of men’s health, Movember has become known as a leader in the provision of support for mental and physical health amongst the adult male population – a demographic that, historically, has been, let’s say, rather backward in coming forward when voicing health concerns.
Since 2003, the charity Movember has been campaigning hard to promote awareness of men’s mental health and suicide prevention, as well as prostate and testicular cancer. Since 2003, Movember has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects worldwide, challenging the status quo, shaking up men’s health research, and transforming how health services reach and support men.
Of course, the primary way you might be familiar with the work of the Movember charity is through its annual ‘Movember’ campaign, which encourages as many men as possible to grow their above-lip facial hair and sport mustaches. The organization has no guidelines regarding this activity – the bigger, the better!
By growing mustaches in support of the Movember movement, the charity hopes that men will be encouraged through their peers to become more aware of their health, and open up about any concerns they may have, seeking advice or support should they need it.
According to Movember’s website, men’s health is in crisis. Men die on average 4.5 years earlier than women for largely preventable reasons. While a growing number of men face life with prostate or testicular cancer diagnoses, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, with males accounting for 69% of all suicides.
Shining a light on important issues
As with other men’s health charities, Movember has become increasingly concerned with the general lack of regard men have traditionally shown for their mental health. Where once it was the norm for men to bottle things up when it came to their mental health, there is now a momentum building for men to speak up and seek help if they feel it could be useful to them.
But this is a juggernaut of an issue that cannot be changed overnight or even with an annual event such as the Movember campaign. Everyone is expected to play their part in getting men to open up more, eradicating the viewpoint that by doing so, men might be perceived as weak or openly displaying chinks in their otherwise perfect masculine armor.
Ask the right questions
According to Movember, helping men with their mental health can be as easy as asking the right questions but phrasing them correctly. After all, getting men to open up is often trickier than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Ask simple questions such as “how are you feeling?” It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve picked up on. Maybe he’s spending more time at the bar, has gone quiet in the group chat, or isn’t attending social events. Trust your instincts. Remember, people often say “I’m fine” when actually they’re not, so don’t be afraid to ask twice.
Give whoever you are asking your full attention. Let them know you’re hearing what they are saying and that you’re not judging. You don’t have to diagnose problems or offer solutions, but asking questions lets them know you’re listening.
Help them focus on simple things that might improve how they feel. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped them in the past?
Suggest that they share how he’s feeling with others they trust. This will make things easier for both of you. And if they have felt low for more than two weeks, suggest that they have a chat with their doctor.
Suggest you catch up soon, although if you cannot meet in person, make time for a call, or drop them a message. This helps show that you care; plus, you’ll get a feel for whether they feel any better.
Always room for improvement
Although things are improving, both in terms of men feeling they’re able to speak up and also in the provision of mental health services for men, there is still a very long way to go. Thanks to awareness campaigns such as that run annually by Movember, this gap is closing, but regrettably, not quickly enough.
Ultimately, it is up to all of us to ensure that men, regardless of their age or background, feel no shame in seeking support and that they will not be stigmatized for doing so.
After all, with the suicide rate amongst men increasing annually, anything we can do to reverse that trend can only positively contribute to the tragic high statistics that prevail.
If you have been affected by the contents of this article, you can find further support by visiting our Get Help pages.