Last month we had Men’s Health Week in Aotearoa; a week to celebrate men, and to highlight the challenges men face in terms of their health. This week often covers somewhat uncomfortable topics like prostate exams (Welcome - Men's Health Week (menshealthweek.co.nz)), that men are more likely to die from cardiac disease and that men are more likely to get diabetes than women. Men are also less likely to get help for their difficulties than women; meaning that they are less likely to detect problems early and get early intervention.
The trend for delayed help-seeking is not just related to physical health. In mental health, although women are overrepresented in most mental illnesses, Men are more likely to die by suicide. Men are also more likely to drop out of psychological therapy if they do access it. Men may also be less likely to be diagnosed with depression than women – whilst this may seem like a positive in the context of this article, this isn’t because men are not experiencing depression. Men, in fact, do experience depression but not the typical depression we think of. Rather than being depressed and tearful, men are more likely to be irritable, grumpy or flat. Thus masking depression with men becoming “grumpy old men”. This impacts the quality of life of men, their loved ones, and their ability to work. Untreated, it can also impact physical health.
One way to help with early intervention is engaging in regular screening or check-ins. A GP can do this but we would also encourage regular self-check-ins. Sometimes it is hard to pick up deterioration in wellbeing because the change is often gradual. So making time and having some criteria to check against can be helpful. One way to do this is to use a regular set of questions. There are multiple screening tools online but it is hard to determine which is one if better and which one is built on evidence. If you’re unsure, you could ask your GP. If you aren’t comfortable with that, we would encourage you to do the Men’s Health survey found at What's Your Score? - Men's Health Week (menshealthweek.co.nz). But while doing it, also think about four other questions. These questions are;
- Am I worrying more, or more anxious about things in my life?
- Do I feel flat, depressed, down, tearful, irritable or grumpy most days?
- Am I struggling to enjoy the things that I used to?
- Have I been having thoughts about hurting myself, a loved one, or suicide?
If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘Yes’ or even ‘Maybe’ we would encourage you to talk to a loved one or a mate about getting some help. Likewise, if you are worried about a mate, if they seem more irritable or grumpy, don’t want to hang out like they used to, don’t seem interested in doing the things they used to, or if something just doesn’t feel right, check in with them. Ask them how they are going, and if they’re okay. If you’re not sure how to do this and want some tips, check out this site.
If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, a GP is a good person to talk to and can help you connect with the right supports or explore treatment options that are right for you. There are many options these days for support; many that are discrete and effective and it is worth exploring these to improve your quality of life and the quality of life of those that you love.
For further resources, check out:
- Dr Liesje Donkin (Workplace Wellbeing Lead)