I was recently very honoured to be asked to talk on Men’s Health at an Art Gallery opening …. to pay homage to Movember – an amazing charity that highlights the importance of men paying more attention to their health – in fact their mission statement is “Stop Men Dying Too Young”.  They achieve this by focusing education on prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention in our men.

I have an amazing job of bringing wellness to people using natural medicine, diet and lifestyle advice.  However, in clinic males probably only make up about 10-20% of my clientele, and why is that?  Why are men not seeking help as much as women are?

It’s not because they are “healthier” … in fact as a gender, men on average live 6 years LESS than women.  Men are more likely to die of unintentional injury, and 75% of suicides in Australia are men.  Lifelife states that there are 8 suicides a day in Australia – which means we are losing too many men to mental health problems.

Physiological differences aside, when it comes to health issues, studies have shown that men are more reluctant to go to the doctor (and once there, are less likely to be honest about what is really going on with them).  A 2014 study showed that men who bought into the “traditional cultural belief” about masculinity – the tough guy image, that they must be brave and self-reliant to be respected – actually created a barrier to seeking care for their own health when they really needed it.  And they also delayed care when they experienced illness.

As a female practitioner, I was interested in another study on male health that discovered men may seek out a male doctor as a preference, however if they endorsed this cultural script about masculinity, they actually disclosed less about their health to that doctor – and when these same men went to a female doctor, they disclosed more about their health – they were more honest about what was going on.  Perhaps because they felt able to disclose emotional issues more openly?  I must say, my male clients are great – so honest about their health and willing to work on themselves.  We just have to encourage our men to seek help more.  Don’t wait for your partner to “send you” to the doctor – think about your health and vitality, and seek help when needed.

This is because the top causes of premature death in men are cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, cerebrovascular disease, respiratory diseases, dementia, prostate and colon cancer and diabetes.  The majority of these can be prevented if applying the right lifestyle and diet choices, getting check-ups regularly and having a professional monitor your health – especially if help is sought when the first signs / symptoms of ill-health arise.  Even better is to get a check-up when feeling well.  In naturopathy, one of our main philosophies is “Prevention is Better than Cure” – basically, don’t wait to get sick before getting healthy.

And it is not just about men …. this is so important for our young boys … our future men.

We need to let them know that:

– It is OK to seek help, and to do it before you are already sick

– We need to spend time with people who make us feel good

– Little boys do cry … so do big men

– It’s good to talk about how you feel, and remember it takes guts to do so. There is nothing sissy about emotions.  Check out the Video on Movember website which states “To be a man of less anxiety, I had to be a man of more words” – such an important message.

– To be more social – to get off the ipad and social media and into the park – to move more, strengthen their bodies, strengthen their minds, explore, interact with others, find joy

– To understand their bodies better – to eat good food (get them involved in cooking if needs be, grow food in the backyard). To respect their bodies, respect themselves and to respect others

– We also need to be great role models – to use Gandhi’s phrase “Be the change you want to see in the world” – men, show your son that health, both physical and emotional, is a priority for you and for your son.

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