What Is Men’s Health Month?
Men’s Health Month is a health-promotion event which is recognized by Health Canada. It exists alongside other events such as Liver Health Month, World Water Day, Mental Health Week and so on. The event is championed by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, a national charity whose mission is to provide information, tools, and motivation to promote the health of men and their families. In Canada, Men’s Health Month is celebrated in June.
Why Focus On Men’s Health?
Men’s health deserves our specific attention, as growing evidence points to alarming epidemiological trends for men. In a special issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health (PAJPH), the Pan American Health Organization outlines why focusing on men’s health is so important. Here are 5 trends to consider for men’s health:
- Men tend to be more likely to die prematurely compared to women. In almost every country, men are more likely than women to die before age 70.
- The risk of death is higher for men across their entire lifespan, not just in older age. This includes a higher likelihood of dying from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as ischemic heart disease, as well as death related to mental health and violence, such as homicide.
- A greater percentage of men’s deaths are believed to be preventable: 36% of deaths for men, compared to 19% for women.
- Men are less likely to seek medical care for early symptoms of a disease or condition, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic status. The consequence of this stubbornness is real. By seeing the doctor only after a condition becomes undeniable, men decrease their likelihood of overcoming a preventable death.
- In addition to the increased likelihood of certain deaths relative to women, many men also deal with health issues that are male-sex specific, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and diseases with X-chromosome recessive inheritance.
Men’s Mental Health
Men’s mental health is a huge topic that often goes ignored. We see the results of this in the worst way possible: In Canadians, across all age categories, four of every five suicides are male. Men tend to stay silent about their issues until it’s too late.
According to Dr. Don McCreary of the Toronto Men’s Health Network (TMHN), the gendered socialization of men plays a big part in this silence. “We have inculcated a culture in our society that men have to be tough, men have to be strong… Weakness is not considered to be masculine.”
What’s more, many men use risky behaviours (including problematic substance use, and violence) to mask their emotional problems from themselves and others, further increasing their likelihood of premature death.
How To Participate in Men’s Health Month
Hopefully, by now, the importance of focusing on men’s health is clear. But you may be wondering: what can you do to participate in men’s health month?
- Spread awareness. Awareness and education are both critical to making a difference. Share articles and resources with others so they can understand just how serious of an issue men’s health really is.
- Encourage the men in your life to take responsibility for their health. At SCHC, we believe in radical responsibility for all aspects of our life, especially when it comes to health. You are the number one person who is responsible for you… and sometimes it helps to be reminded of that.
- Talk about mental health. Even though mental health is such a big component of men’s health, it often goes undiscussed. By bringing conversations about mental health forward, we decrease the stigma and overcome the inertia that keeps us from opening up, as well as help others to do the same.
- Seek treatment. Men are more likely to use alcohol, tobacco or other substances than women, and more likely to be suffering from issues related to problematic substance use. What’s more, problematic substance use is likely to reflect underlying mental health issues that may also benefit from being addressed professionally. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or mental health, consider your options for treatment.
- Make some changes to your lifestyle. Men’s Health Month is a great opportunity to be intentional about your lifestyle choices. Changes don’t have to be huge. They could include everything from practicing good oral or sleep hygiene to scheduling regular health check-ups, to quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, or getting more active.
Men’s Health Month doesn’t have to be a chore; it’s a real opportunity to take responsibility for your health and to encourage those around you to do the same. Make choices that will help you feel better both now and later in life. In the words of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation,
“It’s about small, slow, and continuous changes. Small changes become habits, and good habits become good health.”
By believing in ourselves and supporting each other, we can help the men in our lives to be the best and healthiest versions of themselves they can be.
The Sunshine Coast Health Centre and Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic are world-class centers for addiction treatment and mental health. We support individuals through evidence-based holistic approaches. To find out more, reach out today.