Getting blokes to talk openly and frankly about health issues can sometimes be a struggle, especially if they feel like they can’t show vulnerability, or they don’t want to worry others with their problems. Whilst I’m the first to admit that talking about fishing and footy is great, we need to be open to broadening the range of topics that we are happy to cover in general conversation.
Stress is normal, in fact it’s essential for our survival. It’s the body’s way of preparing us for a fight or flight response. However, continual elevated stress can lead to dysfunction and often, as blokes we hit the bottle as a form of self-medication. Our first step should be to talk to someone and seek help if we’re feeling stressed, but historically, as blokes, we’ve been pretty poor at this. As a result of alcohol self-medication, we see twice as many men die of alcohol abuse, and men in their sixties are more likely than any other demographic to die as a direct result of alcohol.
Walking the tightrope of being a stepdad can be a particularly stressful time for many blokes and this added situational distress, that some blokes sometimes find themselves in, can be both challenging and take time to resolve. Remember all relationships are a work in progress.
When we as blokes, arrive at the decision with our partners that the pitter-patter of tiny feet, 2am feeds and toxic nappies are not on the agenda anymore, then some form of permanent contraception is one possible pathway. There are options for the ladies in our lives, but those options can involve major surgery and unwanted side effects. The male version in terms of permanent surgical sterilization is the vasectomy and by comparison it’s minor surgery with little to no side effects.
For our small team of community educators working in the field of men’s health and wellbeing, we are always challenged on what is classified as a mental illness. We realize there is a small percentage of the population who have a genetic mental illness predisposition. Situational Distress however describes a stage in our mental health and wellbeing that gives us permission to be in a space between being well and being diagnosed with a mental illness. The adoption of this language resonates with blokes and community and fosters change to take personal responsibility for our own wellbeing and health.
We promote the point that choice around our lifestyle is mostly up to us. While genetics, environment and the health system can also impact on our health and wellbeing, in the context of drugs and alcohol the choice is ultimately ours and the consequences of use and misuse are clear and so are the laws.
When songwriter and bass player for supergroup Queen, John Deacon penned “Ooh you make me live” as the opening line for their hit “You’re My Best friend”, I’m guessing he didn’t know that he would in later years be backed by a 75-year Harvard University study on the impacts of relationships and happiness on health and wellbeing. Apparently, having a best friend does in fact make you live! Thanks to the Harvard University Happiness Study, it’s now proven that social connection and the quality of relationships directly influences how well and how long we live.
Recently, there’s been much discussion about Gillette’s ad and its portrayal of blokes. It’s not a particularly good ad for selling razors, but the intention was to spark debate, and it has certainly succeeded there. Whilst the intention might be admirable, it’s confusing. In particular, polarizing the group it clearly wants to unite for change.
Sometimes it’s easy, other times we’re talking to Godzilla. Being a father of teenagers is challenging and rewarding, but it doesn’t have to be a health hazard. Keep in mind, that most of us just want three things for their kids; To be happy; to be independent and for them to contribute. That said, we’re integral to them getting there.
Us West Aussies love nothing more than getting outdoors and enjoying the abundance of sunshine that lathers our great state. A small amount of incidental exposure to sunlight, around a few minutes each day, is actually important for maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D needed for strong bones, muscles and overall good health. Too much exposure however, places us at great risk of damage from Ultra Violet ‘UV’ radiation which potentially could lead to the development of skin cancer. We need to get the balance right!