The meaning behind the mo
As we compare facial hair from the suave to the questionable this November, it’s worth reminding ourselves what this Movember thing is all about. The Movember Foundation was established to create a focus on men’s health. Now in its sixteenth year, Movember runs events in more than 20 countries and has had more than 5 million participants since its inception.
Movember aims to raise awareness of range of men’s health issues both physical and mental. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, recent statistics on causes of death in Australia reinforce that this is a major area of concern.
In Australia 75% of all suicides are carried out by men. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in Australian men and is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15-44 years, highlighting the seriousness of this issue.1 These statistics also remind us of the difficulty men have when it comes to getting the support and treatment they require to get their mental health back on track.
Not seeking help early enough is a major barrier to good mental health. Many men simply don’t feel comfortable talking about their emotions, and this is not helped by the stigma around mental health and gendered attitudes around men admitting to perceived weakness or failure. We know that men are less likely to seek, offer and receive social support. The tendency to ‘go it alone’ means men experiencing mental health issues may be more likely to isolate themselves. Isolation is, in itself, a risk factor for depression.2
Thankfully attitudes are changing. Workplaces and community groups are working harder lately to raise awareness and encourage men to reach out and seek help. However, the high prevalence means it will take us some time before we begin to see some positive changes. There are a few simple things we can all do to improve these outcomes.
Take a fresh attitude to mental health
When men get injured playing sport, they’re likely to seek help from their GP or physio to aid recovery. The same approach should be taken for mental health. Feeling overwhelmed by stress or low over a period of time and tending to isolate yourself from others, are among the early signs of a mental health issue. If you or a friend, colleague or relative are experiencing any of these symptoms then it’s a good time to see your doctor.3
Talk to someone
Let your loved ones know when you are struggling. Speak to a trusted family member or friend. Often just talking about the issue and being listened to can help relieve burdens and alleviate distress. For a qualified counsellor, speak to your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available. You can also choose from a number of specialist helplines such as MensLine 1300 789 978 or Lifeline 13 11 14. A number of these services also provide online chat.
Get out and meet with friends
As mentioned, social isolation is a major risk factor and key indicator of depression. Social connection is essential for maintaining good mental health. Make a regular time in your weekly schedule to meet up with friends and family. A weekly game of tennis with mates is not only great for you physical wellbeing, it can support your mental health as well. In fact, just being outdoors in the sun can improve some of the brain chemistry vital for mood regulation and good mental health.
Help out a mate
Keep an eye on your family, friends and workmates. If you notice someone else struggling or showing signs they need help, offer to be there for them and help them out with whatever they need. This is not only good for them it can be very beneficial for you as well.
Immerse yourself in the simple things
Our lives get so busy at times we forget to take time out for ourselves and do the things we enjoy. Even if it is taking a few moments to enjoy and savour your morning coffee instead of absently drinking it down. This is an example of mindfulness, a practice highly beneficial for mental health and resilience. Take time in the evening to sit and talk to your partner or family without the distraction of the phone or TV.
Take a break
Have a “nothing day”, breaking your routine with a day without any firm plans and just see where it takes you. A change from daily routine can be restorative and help to create neural pathways in the brain that shift unhelpful thinking habits.
Volunteer in your local community
There are many benefits to volunteering not least being a great way to support your mental health by strengthening connectedness with others, building your sense of purpose through giving back to the community, connecting with and engaging your passions and developing new skills.4
- ‘Intentional self-harm, key characteristics’, Australian Bureau of Statistics, www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Main%20Features~Intentional%20self-harm,%20key%20characteristics~3, accessed November 2018.
- ‘Depression in men’, Beyond Blue, www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it- affect/men/depression-in-men, 2016.
- Flannery, J., Hawthorne, M., , Australian Medical Association, accessed 27 July 2017, ama.com.au/media/GPs-key-role-mental-health
- ‘Benefits of Volunteering’ healthdirect, www.healthdirect.gov.au/benefits-of-volunteering, accessed 7 November 2018.