It’s happening under your nose

Sobering statistics for 2020 show that globally, on average, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day. In Australia the rate of male suicide is three times that for females.

In their recent press release, Movember, the leading charity changing the face of men’s health said, “Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about. Men are dying too young and we simply can’t stay silent.”

With their focus on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer – this month, Movember is tackling men’s health head on, creating ways for men to be heard and to listen.

Men’s mental health and Covid-19

Figures released earlier this year by Movember, as part of a global study carried out by the Social Research Centre, found that:

  • More than half of Aussie men (52%) said no one asked how they’re coping during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of men said their mental health had worsened in the first six weeks of the pandemic, with 30% noting increased feelings of loneliness.
  • Older men are the group most likely to have experienced poorer social connection, with 61% of men 45 years or older reporting they feel less connected to their friends since the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • In Australia, calls to Lifeline increased by 25% when physical distancing was mandated.

“Not surprisingly, our research confirmed the impact of Covid-19 has hit men pretty hard in Australia and globally. The statistics show us men are anxious and uncertain about the future, says Movember Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Brendan Maher.

“Many guys are isolated and disconnected from their usual social support networks – and the places where men usually go to have those shoulder-to-shoulder conversations with their mates, like going out for a drink or a bite to eat, watching or playing sport, or going to the gym, have been severely reduced.

“We know men aren’t great at asking for, or seeking help at the best of times, so we need to do as much as we can to buffer some of the problems they’re facing, now. The programs Movember have delivered this year will make a meaningful impact going forward.”

More than lip service

During Movember, the focus is on dialogue and education.

“The founders of the Movember organisation started out on what is now an 18-year journey thinking about how we could start the right conversation with men although at the time, it was the turn of the century and there was a lot of focus on painting things pink for breast cancer,” says Global Director of Testicular Cancer and Digital Health, Sam Gledhill.

“While we’ve seen the women in our lives doing a phenomenal job at raising awareness to really break down the stigma of breast cancer and make it something that women needed to concern themselves with, there wasn’t a great deal that men could hang their hat on, to focus efforts on the problems that are specific to men’s health.

“That led to what has become Movember’s foundational idea: using a conversation about moustaches, something uniquely masculine, to generate interest and open the opportunity for men to talk about the area of men’s health,” he adds.

Getting men to talk about prostate, testicular or mental health isn’t easy. While women are comfortable getting immersed in intimate, face-to-face conversations, men shun such directness.

For us, face-to-face conversations are often banter, bravado and bluster, none of which are likely to lead to intimate, face-to-face dialogue about balls or bums. If we are going to engage in deeper conversation, it’s typically over the BBQ or a game of golf as they offer a circuit breaker if things get too deep or uncomfortable.

“We know that men are not particularly good at kick-starting these conversations but, once you open the topic, men can engage really well,” explains Mr Gledhill.

“What we observed is when men have conversations, and particularly meaningful conversations or health conversations, they tend to do it in places where they are standing side-by-side, like at a barbecue or workbench.”

The Sydney Resilience Centre’s Clinical Psychologist, Joe Alberts, is a men’s mental health specialist and explains why men prefer to avoid face-to-face conversations about intimate issues.

“As a man, when there’s no option other than to look at the person I’m talking to square in the face, suddenly I’m overwhelmed by the intimacy of the moment and how vulnerable I feel. In those situations what men will do is revert to generalities and talk, for example, about sport,” he says

“However, from a mental health perspective, while men were in a sense reticent to talk about the emotional impacts of marriage and work and children, it’s seems the global and local changes that Covid-19 introduced – which are certainly very real – ­have stirred a welcome change in the way that we think about ourselves and our world.

“In my experience, men are now much more open to talk about their emotional experiences and the impact of the environment on their emotions. It’s almost as if Covid-19 gave us permission to be vulnerable.

“It seems people have accepted that being impacted by Covid-19 doesn’t make you a sissy. There’s no shame in finding it difficult because the kind of global changes we’re looking at would impact anyone,” says Mr Alberts.

To read the entire feature as published in this month’s issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, and to learn more about Movember, visit: