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by Grahame Richards, PICS Peer Coordinator at One Door Mental Health
Happy Mens Health Week! 14-20 June 2021
As we all know, us blokes have a tendency to bottle it all up inside. The reason that stereotype exists is because, regrettably, it's accurate.
Regardless of whether it's mental or physical health we try to ignore the screaming obvious. I've had a corked calf for about 8 weeks now, ignored it for the first 4 weeks then asked my physiotherapist girlfriend what I can do about it (because I was finally getting sick of the discomfort and it wasn't fixing itself) and she informed me that stretches would sort it out, and showed me the stretches to do. Great! Now I know stretches that I don’t do. Well, I do, but not nearly enough. My shoulder is starting to lock up too, unfortunately for her, she can also do remedial massage. But of course, I haven’t let her know about it yet – it's only been a couple of weeks after all.
And the same thing goes for other aspects of men's health. There's a reason why a lot of us don’t get our prostates checked (even though there's apparently a blood test for it now I still suggest taking some flowers for your GP when getting checked). I once met a farmer who had been butted by a cow in the hip the day before, limping like one leg was 3” shorter and sweating bullets from the agony, he (and his cowboy mate) assured me that he was fine, refused any walking aids (even a walking stick) and was going to ‘tough it out’ – he collapsed part way through the day and X-rays discovered a broken Neck of Femur, commonly known as a broken hip. But he outright refused any help up until life became unbearable.
This happens in many ways for a lot of blokes, collapsing in a lot of different ways of unbearable life. In 2020, men more than tripled women in suicide rates – over 2500 men ended their lives by their own hand compared to just over 800 women. If there’s something wrong in the grey matter upstairs we tend to push that deep down and carry on, sweating bullets, not talking to anyone about what’s going on. Thankfully there’s a bit of a push for men’s health now, a big part of that being Mental Health. And there needs to be. As debilitating as Mental Health can be, it is also an invisible issue. The person who is afflicted needs that support and its often gone on to such an extent that we drop our guard, or our marbles, and someone notices our distress and starts the support cogs turning. I know I've had mates and we’ve had good, but relatively superficial friendships. We always talked about cars, beer, camping and skateboarding and other general chit chat but we never checked in with each other, never ask “how ya garn, mate?”. When I lost it, a lot of those mates friendships dried up. They neither had the skills or care to take that next step to support a mate but the few that did became a whole new level of friend and a supporter. This isn’t common enough unfortunately and it is because we have done it to ourselves, toughing it out til we run out of rope. So if there are some steely-eyed blokes you know, check in on ‘em occasionally. You just have to ask “how ya garn, mate?” and yep, they will probably tell you they're fine. But they will know they can lean on you for support when they're reaching the end of their rope, or they might even open up and we can support these blokes to start their Recovery Journey.