In this month’s blog, I would like to highlight men’s health. The essential differences between men and women are apparent, according to British psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. He stated that some men struggle to talk about feelings because they are hard-wired in the brain for ‘systemising’ to understand and build systems. However, it isn’t to say that this is the only reason why men rarely seek therapy or visit the doctor as regularly as women. Perhaps, there is something beyond our biology but more to do with one’s environment. Men’s health matters as much as women’s, and I want to address it here because there is a disparity in societal awareness.
If you research men’s health, you will that men are just as concerned with some of the health issues faced by women. Some of those issues, according to WebMD, include depression, anxieties, panic, alcoholism, heart disease, prostate problems, erectile dysfunction and hair loss, just to name a few. In the UK, one in eight men experiences health issues, specifically around Mid-life as an existential crisis. There is an unconscious transgenerational trance that put pressure on men in modern societies. The pressure includes being the breadwinner, the provider, the protector, the saviour. These unhelpful roles and expectations put a continuous constraint on men on a daily basis. Men’s health matter, and we can break free from the limitation of those archaic beliefs. We can all do our part in changing our expectation of the men in our lives. We can encourage our partner, our dads, our grandad, and our male friends to be opened to their feelings and emotions, including concerns for their health and wellbeing.
Men have genuine health concerns, which we should all validate. Suicide, for example, are higher in men than women, resulting from depression. Still, there is a lack of awareness, ineffective communication and unhealthy work-life balance from expectation in the workplace and at home. We can all help to minimise men’s health risks and have compassion for the inner struggle they faced and unable to vocalise.
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment is the greatest wealth.” – Buddha.
Here’s how you can help
- Trust your instinct when you notice the subtle signs
If you are a wife, girlfriend or partner and suspect that your spouse struggles with his mental health. Trust your instinct and speak out for him. With his systemising brain, he might not be able to express the feelings and emotions associated with the physical symptoms of struggles. It would be an intimate experience within the relationship if you initiate the conversation. You might begin with something like, “I wonder if you are struggling with work, I noticed that you have been tired from working late all this week”, or “I wonder if you are experiencing something difficult because you have been avoiding being intimate with me?”. The subtle signs that you notice could be the beginning of a physical health issue.
- Begin with your feelings
When you being a conversation with an acknowledgement of your feelings and emotions, it gives the other person permission to express theirs. Most men struggle to tell you how they feel and what they think. If you make a start, it helps to normalise freedom of expression. It doesn’t come naturally to men, remember. It does not mean that they can’t learn. When you express your feeling toward them, it also helps them see, hear and understand your concern. You might begin with, “I feel like we have drifted apart, and I feel sad about that; what has been going on for you lately?” or “I feel sad and experience a distance between us because we have not been intimate, is there something you are feeling also?”
- You cannot force what doesn’t come naturally
Generally, men will resist talking about feeling and emotion because they are not naturally emphatic. They should not be forced to have a ‘girly’ talk but rather encourage. They could be a mindset that prevents them from expressing their feeling. It might have been from conditioning in childhood that made them considered talking and showing emotions as signs of weakness. If that’s the case, we have to help them unlearned those unhelpful conditions. We would do this with love and patient, not shouting or nagging.
“If one speaks or act with a pure mind, happiness and love will follow.” – Buddha.
- There are times when you need to take control
You might find that you will need to take control of their health matters. I don’t know if you feel the same, but I often have to book my husband’s doctors appointment for him. I even had to schedule his COVID-19 booking because he kept postponing the task. There might be fear in that. There might be a mindset that says, why fix it when it still works? Taking control and taking charge of your man’s health is you addressing the avoidance. You might even consider initiating a discussion as taking control. It is easy to bury our heads in the sand, but it shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to health and wellbeing.
- Validate and affirm their experiences
Sometimes it is difficult to express our emotions and feelings. The intensity of our emotions can control us and take over the logical, practical mind. We can’t work or do anything if we spend all our time in tears or emotional turmoil. It can feel lonely when we are consumed with emotions. When our emotions overwhelm us, we can validate them and accept them rather than repress them. We need to make friends with our feelings. We can help our husband, boyfriend or partner by validating emotions that overwhelmed them and affirm their struggle. In the acknowledgement, you are allowing them to be okay as they grapple with the inner brawl.
- Appraisal, not appeasing
Who doesn’t like a compliment? The majority of us love being complimented and appraised. However, sometimes people struggle to say something nice. It is more habitual for us to critique rather than being pleasant. Many of us take our loved ones for granted, which is unhelpful. If we want to help bring awareness to our male partner’s health, we need to appraise his ego. But, be careful not to appease him by satisfying his egoic or narcissistic needs. An appraisal comes from the heart, and it is expressed with kindness. But, an appeasing comes from a place of fear.
“Never let your fear decide your future.” – Buddha.
- Do not shame, blame or guilt-trip
It takes a lot of courage for people to share. It can seem like they have to build up their inner strength to talk about something personal, especially if it is something intimate and private. As a listening, it is most unhelpful to shame, judge or blame the person in the disclosure. Even if you displayed signs of shock or disbelief, it could be off-putting. Notice your reactions in response to what was shared when a man wants to address his hair loss problem, for example. There are deeper psychological emotions behind the feelings being displayed. For the man, it might be a loss of his fragility or virility. Never make them feel guilty for what men share because all things disclosed are genuine concerns and valid.
“It is easy to see the fault in others, but it is more difficult to see one’s own faults.” – Buddha.
What I have highlighted here is no mean extensive to men’s mental health or worries. You can probably come up with many other ways to help spread men’s health awareness. It starts with you, and you can make a huge difference someone whether he is a friend, family member or work colleague. With loving-kindness, you can really help men open up about their health concerns especially when you show a willingness to listen and express interests in their health and wellbeing.
“No one can walk the path for you, but you can share and unburdern you load.” – Unknown.
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