No matter where we come from, how much money we have, or how strong we think we are, as men, we’re all vulnerable and subject to the same psychological and physical health issues. From a young age, instead of facing these issues, we’ve been conditioned to bottle up our emotions, to be tough, to not complain and to not cry, because we’re ‘men’. The consequence for letting any of this show? You get called soft, your sexuality is questioned, and the integrity of your character is challenged. But for what? This way of living isn’t right, and it’s clear this has a real impact on the quality and duration of men’s lives. Globally we continue to suffer and die at the hands of preventable illnesses many years before females. With Movember underway, it’s a great time to recognize these issues and to change the conversations we’re having so we can tackle the men’s health crisis we’re facing and make a real difference.
For men, understanding and dealing with emotions can be difficult because for all of our lives we’ve been told to neglect and ignore them. Because of this, we’re less likely to recognize when there is something occurring that doesn’t feel right which means we’re less likely to seek help when we need it. For example, men may see feelings of sadness and hopelessness as stress instead because they’ve never discussed those feelings before. Then when they go to see a doctor, they don’t disclose those feelings which can be key identifiers of depression, which means they are less likely to get a diagnosis and the help they need. The consequences of this are best reflected in reported diagnosis of mental health issues with female rates of depression and anxiety being much higher than men, however male suicide rates that are 2.5-4 times that of females.
Why is the male suicide rate so much higher? Well, men tend to be more violent in their methods which make medical intervention much harder. When men make their mind up they’re less likely to change their mind. And, because men often do not seek help, when things aren’t feeling right, they attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol instead of proper prescribed medication which creates an increased risk factor for suicide.
With 9.3% of the global male population suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s incredibly likely that a friend, a family member or one of your colleagues is currently struggling and you don’t have a clue. The sheer volume of people that are suffering shows that these feelings are normal, that this is part of the human experience, and it’s something we need to collectively acknowledge to change how we address this. For some guys, opening up might be incredibly uncomfortable and scary because they’re making themselves vulnerable. But, through the brave men that are stepping forward and sharing their experiences, this is helping to create a space that feels safe for men to speak out without being judged.
Imagine a world where you have a terrible day, you and your partner split up, or you see something that upsets you, and you can talk to anyone in your life about it, knowing they’re not going to judge you or look down on you. Would that change your openness to talk about your struggles?
Here’s another hairy topic, prostate, and testicular cancer. What are your immediate thoughts? The glove being stretched over the doctor’s hand and them touching things that are reserved only for that special someone? How does that make you feel? Uncomfortable? Well, that momentary discomfort seems a like a reasonable price to pay when we take a look at just how many men are impacted by prostate and testicular cancer. Currently, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men with more than 1.4 million diagnosed each year, claiming 350,000 lives, and testicular cancer being the number 1 most diagnosed cancer for young men.
Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal, which can result in a tumour. Prostate cancer often grows slowly at first, and it might not cause any issues. However, for some men, prostate cancer is more likely to spread. These prostate cancer cells, if left untreated, can spread from the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumours.
Signs and symptoms
Once you hit 50 a prostate check is something that you’ll need to get done when you’re at the doctor. You should also talk to your doctor about a PSA test. This is used to determine the measurement of Prostate Specific Antigen concentration in the blood. Early detection here is key and can be the difference between life and death.
Testicular cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop in the tissues of the testicles. Sadly for men aged 20-35, testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, however is also very curable. But once again, early detection is key here.
Signs and symptoms
It’s important to get to know your nuts and give them a feel each month. Find what’s normal for you, and if there are any changes then see a doctor. If you need a little more help with this, check out the information page on the Movember Foundation website.
It’s time to make a difference and start talking about the things that really matter. Our health. We only get one life (that we know of) and if we can stop dying younger than we need to and enjoy our lives a whole lot more at the same time, then it’s a no brainer really. Let Movember be the kick start you need to make a difference in your life and the lives of all the men around you.
Whether you're searching for more support or want to know how you can provide support to the men in your life, the Movember Foundation website has a wealth of knowledge, articles, and resources about men's mental health, suicide prevention, and prostate and testicular cancer.