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Why men’s health is in need of serious attention

Opinion & Analysis
In November, awareness and support are specifically raised for those facing prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health issues.

DID you know that November is Men’s Health Awareness Month with International Men’s Health Awareness Day falling on November 19?

There is actually a long-standing care gap affecting men worldwide. For many reasons, men’s health at work is often neglected. It is, however, time this changed for the better.

In November, awareness and support are specifically raised for those facing prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health issues.

This November 19, International Men’s Day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities with the 2023 theme being Zero Male Suicide.

Strong beliefs, norms, attitudes and stereotypes of masculinity have been prevalent and harmful for men’s health. These beliefs create social barriers which prevent men from seeking medical services and that exposes them to greater risks and some end up committing suicide

To highlight that men’s health at work is often neglected, just take a good look around your workplace and imagine that one in five of those male colleagues will not make it to retirement age. Instead, they will be dead, and most likely from an illness which can be treated successfully.

Suicide is still the leading cause of death in men under 35. Three-quarters of all premature deaths due to coronary heart disease are among men. Globally, men die on average six years earlier than women and for reasons that are largely preventable. Some men do not like asking for help, but we are encouraging you to reach out if you need to. Speak to a friend, family member or colleague.

It is no secret that stigma exists regarding men’s mental health. A silent crisis of mental illness in men is simmering across all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds and is affecting both men and women. Many men struggle with symptoms of mental illness, but refuse to admit they need help. It should be noted that sometimes it can be difficult to recognise a man who is experiencing mental health challenges.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness in men may not be exactly the same as those seen in women. The only problem with men is that they are often reluctant to acknowledge feelings of hopelessness or anxiety, and as a result, they become depressed, which is a serious medical condition which needs attention and treatment.

When men struggle with depression, they may display behavioural changes. For example, men are more likely to use drugs or alcohol than women or behavioural changes such as angry outbursts, avoiding family and social gatherings or having trouble managing responsibilities, among others.

Some common men’s mental health issues include:

Stress and depression

Stress is a feeling of being under pressure and overwhelmed and this is very normal, especially when there is a lot of pressure from their day-to-day life. Men always face stress, especially when there is an imbalance between what’s being asked of them and their ability to deliver or cope with the demands.

This causes discomfort and distress, which can lead to men’s mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Stress can be a good thing in manageable doses, as it can play a key role in driving us to achieve our goals.

However problems arise when someone feels unable to meet expectations, and their coping abilities to deal with the pressure are challenged.

Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities. Depression can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns and difficulty concentrating. Depression can range from mild to severe and can last for a long time, sometimes weeks, a month or year.

Just to note, depression can also affect a man’s sex drive. Many depression sufferers also lose interest in sex, creating further problems in intimate relationships. Understanding that a depressed person’s behaviour is the result of an illness may not make things easy, but knowing what is going on, and that the condition is treatable, can give a sense of hope.

Loneliness and anxiety

Loneliness is often compared to hunger. It is a lack of emotional sustenance, the physical pleasure of being in the company of someone who cares about you.

Male loneliness is on the rise, as is male suicide. Loneliness is not gendered, but men in particular tend to struggle to express deep feelings and form meaningful connections.

Loneliness is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes, especially among men. Loneliness and social isolation can, for example, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke or heart attacks among others.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma

Men commonly avoid seeking help for mental health issues and often try to handle them on their own.

Unfortunately, this can lead to severe consequences, including risky behaviours, addiction and suicide.

It is an important strategy to raise men’s mental health awareness and work towards reducing stigma as well as addressing the root causes of men’s mental health issues.

The main primary focus will generally be to encourage men to speak up and seek help for mental health issues.

At the end of the day, breaking the stigma surrounding men’s mental health will in turn promote a culture of openness and support for men who are struggling.

Create a time-out culture

Overwork and stress are massive contributors to ill health, but many feel compelled to go on working despite the messages their bodies are sending them.

I personally feel men should have enough time to go out and relax themselves after working hours and avoid being serious always.

Men should be taught to break all the unusual working patterns such as weekend working, unusual hours as they compromise their health.

Quality sleep can help us reset, recover and recharge. It’s absolutely vital to brain function, memory, concentration, immune health and metabolism.

In fact, if you are sleep deprived, your body will force you to sleep, no matter what you’re in the middle of.

Mental healthcare and treatment

In the context of national efforts to strengthen mental health, it is vital to not only protect and promote the mental well-being of all, but also to address the needs of people with mental health conditions.

This should be done through community-based mental healthcare, which is more accessible and acceptable than institutional care, helps to prevent human rights violations and delivers better recovery outcomes for people with mental health conditions.

Most common men’s mental health issues can be successfully treated. Everyone struggles at times — the key is to reach out for help as early as possible to increase the chances of a faster recovery.

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health issue, there is support and counselling that we are giving this month of November if you seek help through the email below.

  • Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert 

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