Men - don't head for the cave!
8th June, 2007
In Men’s Health Week (11-17th June), many of us will have noticed articles in the media about common male illnesses and strategies for combating them.
And certainly men’s health is poor. Men are more likely to die than women at all ages. Their life expectancy is lower than women’s. They are more likely to die from accidents and major illnesses such as heart disease. They drink and smoke more heavily, and use more illegal drugs.
But they also experience huge amounts of mental distress. 75% of suicides in the UK are committed by men. So it is vital that we consider men’s mental health as well as their physical health.
Men have been brought up not to talk about their problems or express their feelings. Asking for help seems to be almost the last thing that occurs to them. That would risk exposing vulnerability, and how can they do that when they are supposed to be strong and independent?
What do they do instead? Some head for their cave (or its modern equivalent, the shed). Others stay longer in the workplace – or the pub. Many distance themselves emotionally and hope the problem will just go away.
Many others engage in conflict with the world around them. It is no surprise that most of the world’s armies are male, as well as the majority of the prison population. War and crime are dangerous ‘solutions’ to cope with emotional turmoil.
Encouraging emotional literacy in men must start at childhood, both in the family and at school. And the culture needs to change so that men do not see it as shameful to ask for help – from family, friends, their GP or a counsellor – when it really matters.
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