Did you know that the health status of males in most countries, including Australia, is generally poorer than that of females? And that more males die at every stage through the life course, more males have accidents, more males take their own lives and more males suffer from lifestyle-related health conditions than females at the same age.
June 11 – 17 marks Men’s Health Week which provides a platform for challenging and debating key issues in men’s health and to raise the profile of men, their health outcomes and health needs around the country.
Relationships Australia NT Counsellor Barry, shares some of his insights into issues affecting men in our society:
Physical and Mental Health
It’s certainly heartening to note the changes in community attitudes towards men’s health that have occurred over the past decade or so. There is now much greater promotion and acceptance of the importance of men taking responsibility for their overall health. Men are now more likely to maintain a healthy diet and to recognise the physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise and regular check-ups with their GP. Thanks to the work of organisations such as Beyond Blue, much of the stigma which used to be associated with addressing mental health issues has now been removed.
Changes in society that have resulted in a greater acceptance of both partners working have meant that traditional ideas about family life are no longer so relevant. Men do not have to see themselves as principally ‘providers’ or ‘breadwinners’, they can also take on more of a nurturing role in the lives of their children. While we may not often think of fathering as being related to health issues, such changes offer a better work/life balance for men and the opportunity for stronger relationships with their children – an investment in the health of future generations
Emotional and Relational Health
In my experience of counselling men over the last 15 years, it’s in the areas of emotional and relational health that men are not doing so well. An illustrative story: Steve (who is an amalgamation of a number of men I’ve seen over the years) has been in a heterosexual relationship for 10 years, and he and his partner have two young children. He has come to counselling at the urging of his partner because she and the children have started to become scared by some of his behaviours. Steve is very clear that he doesn’t want them to feel scared but frustration seems to take over at times. As we talk, he starts to understand that some of the ways of being a man that our Australian society still promotes (even though this is changing) are really not helpful for his relationship – including maintaining a strong facade, pushing hard for his way of doing things, having a ‘blokey’ approach to drinking and sport–watching. Steve decides to work on some changes, for his own good and the good of his relationship
We need more Steve’s in the community! Steve’s who step up, face up and make a strong commitment to taking responsibility. Unfortunately, we know that all too frequently nothing happens until there is a violent incident, people are hurt and the police are called – and perhaps the relationship breaks down. We as men need to take collective responsibility for noticing attitudes and beliefs that promote dominant or abusive ways of being, and work to replace these with attitudes that promote respectful ways of being. If we are able to do this, then there will be a chance for better emotional and relational health for men – and for women and children
If you, or someone close to you, is experiencing similar issues to Steve and would like to talk about it please contact Relationships Australia NT on 1300 364 277
For more information on Men’s Health Week go to: http://www.menshealthweek.org.au