It’s Men’s Health Week here in Australia and while generally men’s health initiatives focus primarily on improving men’s physical health, this year’s theme explores the positive contributions and connections men and boys make to their families.
Men’s roles in families have changed significantly over many years particularly in relation to increased practical involvement in family activities, such as household chores and childrearing. However research shows that men are still generally more likely to be the higher income earner with cultural expectations that their role is that of the main ‘breadwinner’.
From a physical health perspective men are more likely to suffer more illness and die earlier than women. They are also more likely to smoke and drink, make unhealthy or risky choices and are less likely to seek help for physical or mental health issues than women.
So why is that? One of the reasons may be men’s perceptions of their role in the family. Gender stereotyping or role models of the strong male/ partner, needing to be tough and resilient for their family can prevent men from being comfortable to opening up about their physical, mental or emotional challenges or problems. Hence the stoic ‘I’m okay mate”response. Unhealthy behaviours and addictions are often ways that men use to cope with their problems.
So how can we support men to challenge stereotypes and admit when they’re not ‘okay’?
Encourage men to be more self-aware, so they can recognise triggers and when stress is building up
Reinforce the notion that expressing emotions in appropriate ways is healthy
Encourage other family members to take share responsibility for problems and challenges
Provide avenues for men to share their concerns and problems in supportive environments
Create family situations where all members are encouraged to talk about their ‘day’
Identify positive activities which are outlets for stress
So, given it’s Men’s Health week, let’s encourage men to take greater care of their physical, mental and emotional health and provide them with the support and care to do so.