My colleagues Michael McGrath and David Collins have joined with me in doing something very important, by not doing something all that important. We have stopped shaving, for a mighty cause. Men’s health.
During lockdown there was a lot of male fuss about the fuzz. Hairdressers became a vital resource and reunions with barbers were celebrated by the double vaxed. But November has now rolled around and it’s an opportunity to let our hair go “shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen" so as to raise awareness for men’s cancers and men’s health issues generally
I have close male friends and relatives battling cancer. They, and their families, are in my thoughts as I write this. I also recently listened to the inspirational story of Mick Fanning’s mother and business manager on ABC’s Conversations. It reminded me of the impacts of men’s health not only on men, but on all family members, and the wider community.
Male health is not a hollow concern or a gender issue. It affects us all. It is the fact that:
- Men are spouses, dads, sons, brothers, brother-in-laws, grandsons, granddads, boy friends and boyfriends, mates, work colleagues and partners;
- Despite making up more than three-quarters of deaths by suicide in Australia, a quarter of men say they would not seek help from anyone for mental health concerns;
- Up to 25% of men experience or are diagnosed with mental health disorders in their lifetime, and 15% experience a disorder in any 12-month period.
- Among boys 10-14 years old, anxiety is the most commonly reported mental health disorder – experienced by about 9% of boys;
- For young men and adults, depression is most common, steadily increasing in prevalence as men get older, from 7% among 15-17 year-olds to 13% in adulthood.
For those of our young and not so young men with mental health problems, we can support them by going beyond asking RUOK, and asking twice, because sometimes we say we're fine when we're not. We need to read between the lines: If he's inviting you to go for a drink or coffee one-on-one, he might want to have a proper chat. So, stay in touch. A text message or a phone call could make a big difference. Now restrictions are relaxed, a visit might even be possible.
I love to share the craic with my male sons, sibs, nephews and friends, but I have read tips about being sensitive to listening and observing if there may be mental health issues. Then, try knowing when to end the banter: “No need to make it awkward, just let them know they are supported.”
Help your men and boys to get help. Reassure them it’s okay to ask for help, and that support is out there. You might help them contact their GP or accompany them to their appointment if they want you to. And take care of yourself. Looking after someone else can be hard, so make sure you consider your well-being too.
Please have an open mind and wallet when contemplating the importance of donating money to this great cause