Men's take on Men's Health week-
When it comes to health advice, navigating articles, advice columns and seeking support can be an utter minefield. Health and wellbeing can often seem like something men (or anyone who identifies as a man) aren’t taught to take care of, or how to take care of it or even feel stigmatised in doing so. It’s Men’s Health Week so we asked our Beingwell blokes about maintaining and managing their health.
Now, it’s 2021 we’d hope this would be easier for everyone, men, women and non-binary people included, but alas there still appears to be issues around taking care of ourselves and seeking professional help. Our society can still pigeonhole men into the role of the provider, so we can subconsciously carry the expectation that men ought to take care of others and not necessarily themselves. But like anything else, how can men be expected to do this if they don’t take the time to vent, relax, and get support for themselves?
And while the conversation around men’s health and wellbeing has upped its game, with memes, blogs, stories, hashtag movements about issues and opening up the dialogue around men’s health, it’s not necessarily happening offline. We are encouraging men to speak up, seek support and take care of themselves but is the space to do so really there?
When we asked whether there still seemed to be stigma around men’s health as a topic the answers showed a resounding - YES. Although improvements were acknowledged, it’s still thought of as a taboo topic for our Beingwell men - and we work in wellbeing so that’s really saying something.
We might be aware of the stigma surrounding mental health for anyone, and that it’s often a bigger hill to hike over for men, but even in terms of general health, the physical aspects, there seems to be stigma. We asked our male colleagues if they would seek professional help, from the GP or elsewhere, if something was wrong physically. We’re talking persistent headaches, back pain or another physical warning that something is askew. While some said yes, there were a few expected answers - like Alistair’s, our Beingwell Sales VP, whose wife has to get him to go!
We also asked team members how comfortable they feel talking to their support networks about health issues they face. How often do you find yourself at the pub with the lads on a Friday night talking about that nagging toothache, airing concerns that you're in burnout or discussing sleep health? We’re going to guess not often, even our team of wellbeing warriors find it a struggle at times.
Duncan, Beingwell’s VP said:
“No, but I force myself to make it more normal. I think good examples start with the self.”
And we agree, what better way to normalise something than talking and sharing your own struggles to help encourage others to join in.
And as for accessing advice and support, navigating the media and resources available isn’t an easy job. Some keywords appeared in our responses from the Beingwell blokes:
Contradictory, confusing, and under-resourced.
Finding trustworthy resources can mean hours of scrolling through websites, forums and advice columns, it can often feel overwhelming and totally pointless when one source says one thing and a minute later we find the complete opposite. Is a glass of red wine a day actually going to keep the doctor away? Is 10,000 steps really the goal? Do we need 8 hours of sleep a night? It’s enough to put anyone off, especially if we’re busy working, taking care of others and remembering which bin goes out this week.
There’s a vulnerability in opening up that for men can be seen as weak, unmasculine or unnatural - it’s not, but after years of believing this, it’s become the norm. This Men’s Health Week let’s start building the new norm - the one where men can feel comfortable saying they’re exhausted without an onslaught of back-chat from whoever is listening, where men do get themselves to the GP to get that mole checked or the backaches resolved, and to one where talking about feelings isn’t ‘girly’ or ‘lame’, it’s just normal.
So we’re asking any lads to take a moment of vulnerability and do something to help yourself - perhaps shudders went down your spine and you’re considering stopping reading this - hold on. It doesn’t need to be announced at the quiz night, or discussed during golf the next day. Perhaps while you wander to the pub chatting to your mate you air a concern, or ask a personal trainer at the gym to check your form (that might be why leg day can feel so hard), or talk to a colleague about the pesky stress your workload piles on you. You could even share this article with any male friends to plant the seed and watch the conversation grow around it.
Too many men, too-too many men: it’s not always easy living with the pressures of being a man, our society can still pigeonhole men into the role of the provider, so we can subconsciously carry the expectation that men ought to take care of others (and not necessarily themselves). Yet a necessary part of moving towards gender equality, requires men to feel heard, safe and able to seek help without ‘Billy Badman’ chiming in to say you’re not ‘manly’ enough for doing so.