• Tom Robinson

Men’s Health Week 2021: the ‘Can Do’ Challenge. Day 1 -Monday: 'Connect'

Updated: Jun 15

Today marks the first day of Men’s Health week 2021 which this year runs from the 14-20th of June.


I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware of its existence until recently, but I think it’s a great initiative, particularly as men are nowhere near as good as women when it comes to discussing their health or admitting a problem.


When it comes to mental health, the men’s under 45’s category needs particular (and urgent) attention.


Suicide is now the leading cause of death in this age group and although this is a recognised problem, the government have still not committed to launching a men’s health strategy aimed at tackling the problem.


The effects of the pandemic have only worsened the issues surrounding men’s health, so it’s not surprising that many are now asking:


“Isn’t it time that we stopped ignoring the facts and figures and made an effort to address the health crisis that exists in young men?”



What is Men’s Health Week?


Men’s Health Week launched in 2002 after representatives from six leading men’s health organizations collaborated with the goal of increasing awareness of male health issues on a global level.


The scheme aims to raise awareness of health issues that affect men disproportionately and focuses on encouraging them to become more aware of health problems that they may have or could develop.


It is hoped that with increased education around men’s health, men of all ages will begin to feel more comfortable when it comes to discussing health in general, and also be more proactive when it comes to seeking help and getting treatment.


I think this is a fantastic initiative because men are historically nowhere near as good at opening up or confronting health issues as women seem to be. There’s a barrier for men which seems to have been genetically coded because many of us still feel that admitting a problem is weak and we’d rather limp, wince and suffer than ever admit that we’re in pain or suffering.


This is partly due to the ridiculous dictation of social norms which say that we must always be strong and rise above adversity and pain, but also because we’re not educated properly about the health conditions that can affect us.




The distinction between mental ‘health’ and mental ‘illness’


I know I keep banging on about this but making the distinction between mental ‘health’ and mental ‘illness’ is essential if we are actually going to see a reduction in suicide rates.


I know why people don’t like saying the term ‘mental illness’ because it’s more saturated with stigma than any other subject in society.


But it really is the last taboo that needs to go now and making the distinction between mental ‘health and mental ‘illness’ is crucial when it comes to demolishing stigma because mental ‘health’ (well-being) isn’t killing people – mental illness is.




Prince Harry and mental health


Although there is a lot of controversy around the Sussexes at moment, Prince Harry does have some very valid points when it comes to mental health, and he was spot on recently when he said:


“Mental health is all of us, and mental illness could be all of us.”

The term ‘mental illness’ needs normalising, and we have all got to become more comfortable with using it because otherwise the stigma and confusion will never disappear.


It’s so important that this happens so that future generations can avoid the added suffering that comes from being misunderstood, dismissed and ridiculed for their legitimate thoughts and feelings.


It is also vital that people with legitimate mental illnesses aren’t confused by the media messages of ‘walk’, ‘talk’, ‘exercise’ and ‘socialise’ because we really can’t do these things when we’re ‘dying to stay alive’ with mental illness, and that’s not our fault either.




Men and the ‘talking’ dilemma


I very sadly lost another friend and fellow equestrian recently who had been very honest and open about his prolonged battle with depression.


Every one of these tragedies shakes me to my core and it makes me so angry that we’re not doing enough to help people in crisis.


These people all leave such important messages behind them and Matt struck upon a really important aspect of men’s mental health when he was quoted recently as once saying:


“Men can’t just pick up the phone and talk to someone they don’t even know.”

I relate so completely to what he said because men can’t just open up about their feelings in the same way as women can – it’s just not wired into us in the same way.






‘Man up’

Although talking alone would never have been enough to steer me out of my illness, an empathetic ear did make the difference when it came to my survival from a severe mental disorder.


There were multiple times when I was clinging on by the fingernails with horrifying thoughts of death and dying but being open softened the impact very slightly and probably did help me to survive the horror of it all.


The problem was that finding an empathetic ear often proved difficult and if you choose the wrong person to talk to then their (often unintentional) advice and instruction can often be enough on its own to tip someone over the edge.


This is why mental health education is now needed in bucket loads because the insensitive ‘man up’s’, ‘move on’s’ (and the one I’ll always remember): ‘have a gin and tonic in the bath and get over it’, are so damaging and I’m sure that these comments alone are responsible for many of the death’s that we’re currently witnessing.




The ‘CAN DO’ Challenge


The theme for this year’s Men’s Mental Health Week is ‘Men, Mental Health and Covid-19’ which encourages men to be more open through an interactive ‘CAN DO’ Challenge that we can all get involved with.


The challenge involves choosing a different action each day this week to aid and support our mental well-being.


The five different categories are:



  • Connect - connect with other people (e.g. - call an old friend you haven't since before lockdown) #connectmonday


  • (Be) Active - move your body (e.g. - go for a run/walk/swim/dance/etc) #activetuesday


  • Notice - take notice of the environment around you (e.g. - turn off your phone for an hour) #noticewednesday


  • Discover - learn something new (e.g. - read a book you haven't read before) #discoverthursday


  • Offer (or give) - do something for someone else (e.g. - volunteer for a local community group) #offerfriday




Day 1: Connect


Today (Monday) is all about connecting with people and the environment around us.


I have made it my mission this week to write each day with a particular focus on men’s mental health and to make a concerted effort to be more interactive with my male friends.



“How are you feeling”


I’m going to send more thoughtful texts in the future too and remember to always ask them how they are feeling rather than just how they are ‘doing’ because a simple twist on that common inquiry allows for a more considered and open answer.




My thoughts on social interaction and connection



Now that I am FINALLY well again and now that the restrictions have been almost completely lifted, I am making the most of the opportunities we now have for social engagement and human connection.


Over the last few months, I have rediscovered my love of socialising and I am finding it such a great tonic for my mental ‘health’ and well-being.


I had completely lost the ability to socialise and connect with people when I was ‘dying to stay alive’ with depression and mixed state, but now that I am my authentic self again, I am finding social support and connection so beneficial to my general well-being and outlook on life.


I have even found myself in fits of uncontrollable laughter recently which, after such terrible isolation (illness and pandemic), is such a wonderful and liberating feeling.


Long may this positivity last!




What is anyone else planning for the ‘CAN DO’ challenge this week and how can we help men to feel more comfortable when it comes to confronting their emotions and paying attention to their health?


I would love to hear from you so do please get in touch!


If you would like to know more about Men’s Health Week and the 'Can do' challenge, then you can find more information here.


Thanks for reading,


Speak to you soon,

TR

www.dyingtostayalive.com