June is National Men’s Health Month and June 12-18 is Men’s Health Week. The goal is to raise awareness around the importance of regular checkups and routine screenings. Men make about half as many preventative medical appointments as women and have a higher death rate from many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, suicide, cancer, and diabetes. They also tend to have more years of bad health and an average lifespan of five years fewer than women.
This is a time to encourage men to become educated about the importance of:
· being conscious of their health,
· working with a health care professional to keep track of their baseline health and risk factors,
· committing to having regular screenings,
· being willing to seek care early when something changes, and
· being honest about what’s going on when they do see a healthcare professional.
The most common reason men give for not making appointments is that they cannot take time away from work to go to the doctor, but it is important to understand that delaying health care can have serious consequences because early detection is vital to improved chances of survival. Treatment may also be considerably easier to tolerate when problems are detected at an earlier stage.
Why is it so hard for men to get routine care or make an appointment before they notice something significant?
Some common themes emerge from the results of various surveys conducted by university and private medical centers:
· Influenced by cultural and social expectations, men may feel they need to be physically and emotionally strong and self-reliant and feel there is stigma for seeking health care – both for body and mind.
· Men tend to lack healthcare awareness or education and may feel uncomfortable talking about intimate health issues and with certain exams.
· Men report fear of getting a bad diagnosis, which may also lead to withholding information when they do see a healthcare professional.
In surveys conducted within the last 5 years, men reported they would rather clean the toilet than go to the doctor!
What are some ways we can get men into the health care system earlier for regular care?
· Family can remind their reluctant male relative to get screened by pointing out they want him to be around to participate in important family milestones.
· Female relatives can use references to find a doctor he will feel comfortable with, one that he will speak to honestly and from which he would be willing to take advice, then make the first appointment, and accompany their relative to provide support.
· Take advantage of the growing telehealth options to start the process, some of those allow you to talk to a practitioner online or over the phone.
· Use reliable online sources to gain accurate information about diseases, testing, and explore health topics so you feel prepared at your visit. For example: MedlinePlus.gov (which is part of the National Institute of Health Library of Medicine).
Mental health may be an even tougher subject for men to address, even if that stems from the same root beliefs about men being stoic and self-reliant. Among other mental health concerns, depression is a serious medical condition, signs for which may not be stereotypical. Symptoms such as feeling sad or hopeless, lack of enthusiasm for favorite activities, and excessive sleep or insomnia are common signs of depression across the board. However, men may exhibit some different behaviors that are signs of depression.
These may include:
· Risky behavior such as reckless driving,
· Escapist behavior such as spending a lot of time working or playing or watching sports,
· Overuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs,
· Irritability, inappropriate anger, or violent behavior,
· Physical symptoms including pain or digestive issues.
Some of these behaviors or symptoms could overlap with other mental health issues, and may also be associated with medical conditions, so this is another reason why it is vital to stay up to date with medical checkups. Men may not realize that these signs are indeed depression if they continue to view depression as synonymous with sadness. If they do recognize the signs, they may resist talking to anyone or getting professional help. That attitude also reduces the chances that trusted family and friends will see the triggers that may result in suicide. Men are less likely to attempt, but more likely to complete suicide, in part because they show fewer warning signs.
Go to https://www.nchd.org/behavioralhealth to the Man Therapy section to see articles, videos, and testimonials that incorporate humor to address issues including rage, anxiety, and trauma. There are also external links to other resources. Man Therapy can be used by men who have worries and women who are concerned about a loved one.
As we prepare for celebrating Father’s Day, keep in mind that the men in your circle may need a nudge to get up to date with their medical check-ups and start scheduling the routine preventive screenings that are appropriate for their age and risk factors. The awareness ribbon color for Men’s Health is blue and the Friday before Father’s Day is Wear Blue Day!