November is often known for "Movember" or "No Shave November," the month globally singled out to raise awareness of men's health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health and suicide prevention.
International Men’s Day is observed all across the world on 19th November. It aims to acknowledge the positive value men bring to our world and societies. The day is commemorated by organizing events, campaigns, discussions, seminars, etc. aimed to raise awareness of men's overall well-being.
The major aim of International Men's Day is creating and sustaining awareness about men's mental and physical health, promoting positive masculinity, and supporting male role models who are positive and worth emulating by the new generations.
The principles of Men’s Day
Men’s day is built upon these six principles:
· To promote positive male role models.
· To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.
· To focus on men’s health and wellbeing; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
· To highlight discrimination against men.
· To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
· To create a safer, better world for men to live in.
Focusing on the point of promoting gender equality not only for men but for women and queer people, this year the theme for Men’s Day is "Better relations between men and women."
Why focus on men’s mental health?
The mental health of men and boys is often overlooked, even though it can take a significant toll on their lives. When ignored, mental health issues can affect physical health and life expectancy. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to high-risk behaviors including substance abuse, gambling and other forms of addiction. Unheeded emotional problems can also limit a man’s ability to fully function in society and within his family.
Both men and women experience mental health difficulties. However, there are some notable differences between the issues affecting them and the factors that influence those issues.
It is especially important to focus on men’s depression because it can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for males in the age group of 10 to 34. It is the fourth leading cause in males 35 to 54 years of age.
Women are more likely to experience mental health conditions than men. They are also more likely to attempt suicide.
However, men are more than 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than women. This may be because they tend to choose more lethal weapons, such as firearms.
What is the stigma around men’s mental health?
Given the prevalence of mental health issues and the dangers of ignoring them, it is important to identify common psychosocial barriers men face when seeking help for the same especially in India.
Here are some common male barriers to seeking out mental health services, or acknowledging a mental health struggle:
· “Real men don’t ask for help.”
The stigma of seeking help for mental health is huge among men. Men feel frustrated about their depressive and anxious symptoms because they are told having a mental health issue is “unmanly”, or “woman-like” and hence a blot on their “manhood.” It is also common for men to resist getting help out of the belief that they should be able to handle everything alone. Sometimes they also remain uninformed about both mental health and masculinity and begin to believe that if they are “real men” it should just go away on its own.
· “Strong men don’t have emotional problems.”
There is a cultural belief that men are born “tough” and they need to be strong, they must never show emotion and hide any signs of “weakness”, and the commonly said phrases like “boys don’t cry.” Mental health conditions can create feelings of vulnerability, fear, insecurity and weakness. Men who live by these stereotypes run the risk of suppressing their emotions and never seeking help. This can lead to ineffective or unhealthy coping. Often such men then begin to have problems with anger, over-working, substance use, or other forms of addictions can also occur. Their self-image and self-respect also gets adversely affected. Men who isolate themselves from others to avoid their feelings struggle internally and their personal as well as professional relationships may also suffer.
· “Therapy or medication might affect potency.”
A common assumption runs that mental health issues are the result of personal sin or wrongdoing. The blame is put on the survivor, so much so that they begin to believe that they have brought this upon themselves and therapy or medicine would make them impotent or mad.
This perspective minimizes the complexities of mental health problems. Mental health can be influenced by a number of factors including: chemical imbalances, distorted thinking patterns, past trauma/abuse, relationship issues and even spirituality related issues.
The reality is that mental health therapy and medicine is not a science of weakness but just like any other medicine and help we might take for a physical ailment.
How to support men’s mental health?
What can men do, when the going gets tough regarding mental health? Men need to invest more and more in self-care and also unlearn the shame and fear instilled in them regarding mental health.
Here are a few easy tips for men:
· Reach out: chat with a friend when you notice you are hiding yourself away.
· Be listened to: speak up and get it off your chest.
· Follow social media accounts that you can relate to and that are not promoting toxic masculinity or toxic positivity.
· Have a chat with someone who will listen and not try to ‘fix’ you – a friend, colleague, family member or a helpline.
· Keep up with your routine or add new structure to your day.
· Get outside for a short walk, nature heals.
· Read something motivational or inspirational that you connect with, to get perspective.
· Do something new like volunteering, sometimes experiencing empathy works well for your own mental health too.
· Take up a new hobby when you feel you have the energy and time for it.
· Stop and pause – take time to check in by using mindfulness, writing or meditation.
· Focus on breathing – breathe in and out slowly for 3 minutes.
· Switch off – in a way that works for you, with a book, film, video game etc.
Anyone in psychosocial distress can use the following resources:
· KIRAN – 1800 599 0019 (24×7) — 13 Indian languages.
· NIMHANS – 080 – 4611 0007 (24×7) — Multiple languages.
· ICall – 9152987821 (Monday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.).
· Pallium India – +91 759 405 2605 (Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) — Eight Indian languages
· CoHope Helpline – +91 98185 40802 (10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.)