Men’s Health Week is this week (June 15th to 21st), and the focus this year is naturally on the global Coronavirus pandemic and the impact this is having on men in particular.
In England, around 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem1. It’s a well-established fact that men have traditionally been more reluctant than women to access professional healthcare support, and are more impacted by conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
The rise of suicide rates has also been of particular concern year on year, and of course the spread of Covid-19 throughout the globe in 2020 has sadly seen more male lives lost.
Kerry Mitchell, Wellbeing Manager and Mental Health Trainer at not-for-profit Health Cash Plan provider Paycare, shares five ways men can maintain their health and wellbeing during this year’s awareness week and beyond as the world adjusts to the ‘new normal’:
- Seek Support:
Life is stressful, busy and pressurised at the best of times – throw in a global pandemic, a UK-wide lockdown, mass redundancies and company closures, childcare juggles, and the fear of catching Covid-19, and for many this will be the most stressful time they’ve ever been through.
And yet there’s a worry that men could be shouldering these extra burdens silently. Traditional gender roles which saw men portrayed as strong and not emotional sadly still resonate in some people’s minds and are thought to be one of the causes behind fewer males asking for mental health support.
Less than a third of the people accessing certain talking therapies are male2, and yet men are three times more likely to take their own lives, with those in their late 40s being particularly at risk3. In 2018, there was a significant increase for the first time in a few years and it would be heart-breaking to see Covid-19 claim even more lives through suicide in addition to those who have died from the virus itself.
That’s why it’s imperative anyone feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious reaches out and talks to someone – whether that’s phoning Samaritans, letting your family know, or setting up a video call to talk with your best friend. By discussing feelings and emotions more, we can work together to normalise more of these conversations — a potential game changer for the road to recovery.
- Get to the doctor:
While all non-essential outings are currently restricted, booking a doctor’s appointment if needed is absolutely essential and shouldn’t be avoided. This applies whether the issue is a mental health problem or a physical one. Research shows men visit their doctor on average four times a year (compared to six for women) and the pharmacy four times too (compared to 18 for women)4. Nine out of ten men also said they wouldn’t call their GP unless they thought it was a serious problem.
A good alternative, if getting to the doctor is an issue, is organising a video or phone call with a GP app service (which may be provided as part of your company’s Health Cash Plan), but if you haven’t got access to one then looking after yourself by getting symptoms checked out by a professional face-to-face is of paramount importance.
- Use your exercise time:
We’ve been lucky that so far in the UK, we’ve been able to get outside and exercise as long as we’ve stuck to social distancing guidelines. A 30-minute walk can do the power of good to mental wellbeing, by boosting our mood, increasing self-perception and reducing stress by producing feel-good hormones5. You might not be running or cycling a marathon each night – and it’s absolutely fine if that doesn’t appeal to you – but if you’re able to get out and about for fresh air, even if it’s just once or twice a week, this will do wonders for your wellbeing and all-round health.
There are endless benefits to walking, including: it’s lower impact so kinder on your joints especially for those who have problems with their knees, hips or ankles; it boosts your mood and can even improve fatigue and depression; it prevents weight gain (and can help those looking to lose weight if done regularly enough); and it can improve your circulation and posture too. Plus, it’s free, you can pop some music or a podcast on while you do it, and it can be a welcome break if you’ve been sat at a computer all day working.
- Watch your waistline:
Lockdown has not been the time that people want to think about dropping a few pounds or toning up for holidays that might not even happen – but lying on the sofa every evening eating and drinking to your heart’s content is bound to have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing, especially if the situation continues for an extended period.
We’re not at all suggesting that the occasional treat should be off the menu, but it’s worth noting that men are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (56%)6 and one of the best ways to avoid the condition is to manage your weight and eat a balanced diet.
Many heart conditions are also more prevalent in males. For example, abdominal aortic aneurysms (where the main blood vessel from your heart down your chest and abdomen swells) are six times more likely to happen to men than women, and again a balanced diet and healthy weight are recommended to reduce your chances7 of suffering with that condition.
- Talk to your employer.
If you’re working through the pandemic, either at home or your regular workplace, please open up to your boss about anything that they can do to support you. Is there a Mental Health First Aider in your workplace who you could talk to?
Employee Assistance Programmes are another popular service which can provide access to confidential help about a range of issues including financial, mental, and relationship worries, if speaking to your boss directly isn’t an option you’re comfortable with (plus it’s done over the phone so you might find it easier than talking face-to-face).
Fighting the urge to tell your boss you’re ‘fine’ when they ask and telling them truthfully about any work-related problems you’re coming up against during the lockdown can have a really positive impact, and ensure your organisation is aware of the challenges you’re facing (and most importantly, what they can do to reduce them!).”
Kerry Mitchell is Wellbeing Manager at Paycare, a not-for-profit Health Cash Plan provider based in Wolverhampton, which works with families, individuals and businesses to improve their physical, financial and mental health. As an experienced Mental Health First Aid Trainer qualified with Mental Health First Aid England, Kerry provides a range of courses on mental health training and support through its dedicated division, Paycare Wellbeing.
Kerry Mitchell delivers a range of face-to-face Mental Health training courses, on or offsite, and at Paycare’s Head Office in Wolverhampton, as well as soon-to-launch virtual courses available online. For more information or to book a space, please visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/paycare-wellbeing-28663001285, www.paycare.org or call the Paycare team on 01902 371000.