Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter… on men’s health

‘Men with traditional attitudes are likely to view self-care negatively — so they’ll potentially die of being macho’

Men’s health campaign Movember is all about getting guys to open up about their wellbeing© ??  `??_/O?? ?`??_

Sunday World

It’s men’s health awareness time, when campaigners take over from the women in their lives.

For November, including International Men’s Day on the 19th (but you knew that) the spotlight is on why men’s health outcomes are worse than they should be — usually for the want of asking — women just want the lads to take care of themselves because, without being too sentimental, we’re quite fond of them.

Campaigns like Movember underline the terrible health reality for most men which is that over three in four suicides are male and men will die on average four years earlier than women.

Its focus is on mental health, suicide prevention, and prostate and testicular cancers; and it shares five simple rules — spend time with people who make you feel good, talk more, know the numbers, know your nuts, move more.

I’d add ‘listen when someone who loves you shows concern about your wellbeing’.

Let me share how men’s health tends to look from a woman’s perspective.

Your beloved partner/ brother/ father/ friend complains of an ache where there hasn’t been an ache before. You rummage in the box where the medicine lives and produce two types of painkiller and a topical cream.

He doesn’t take the tablets because he doesn’t like taking pills. ‘They might be addictive, and who knows what damage they could be doing’. You secretly count units of alcohol/ fried food/ biscuits versus two paracetamol. Three days later you put the unused cream away.

A friend’s partner isn’t in the first flush of youth and past the 50 mark, she suggested he should get a prostate check. Fast forward eight years and on a whim, she rang the surgery, asked for the information, and made an appointment for a blood test with his consent.

On the day, he asked what time the appointment was. Three days after the results were ready, he still hadn’t rung.

Years ago, I insisted my husband got his cholesterol checked because it’s a sensible thing to do. After more cajoling than strictly necessary for a normal health screening, it turned out mine was through the roof and his was perfectly normal. I was relieved — and secretly seething I’d very maturely lost in a cholesterol competition.

Women are used to being poked, prodded and examined in the most intimate ways when we’re perfectly healthy.

We spend years having periods, taking meds when they hurt, trying not to get pregnant, trying to get pregnant, having babies, having cervical screenings, and having breast screenings.

We’ll undress from the waist down, the waist up, scoot down the bed and share our lady gardens without a second thought. We’re more likely to associate stirrups with a medical setting than an equine one.

In a family, the role of health caretaker is more likely to fall to a mother, and doctors are already familiar territory if you’ve got as far as being a parent.

Men can conceivably avoid a healthcare setting until injury or illness finds them, so we can understand why it’s unfamiliar.

Men with traditional attitudes are also likely to view self-care negatively, so they’ll potentially die of being macho.

It doesn’t need to happen, and we’d really like to see them stick around, and enjoy a good life and good health.

So whether it takes growing a tache, donating some money, or just being a bro, it’s worth it — but could we talk about shaving it off in December?

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