Family Health Diary

Movember is here. Men’s Health month – roll on hairy men. Well, actually there’s a lot more blokes sporty hirsute faces these days, be it the clipped beard that never gets past a casual (yet constant) haven’t shaved for a while look, or something a bird would be proud to nest in, so maybe Movember is not the hairy old thing it used to be.

While beards might be the indie, thinking blokes trademark look, moustaches, in my mind at least, are still a thing of the eighties best left there. Perhaps it’s because I lived through that heady decade as a young thing having a fine old time (read for that all care, no responsibility, self-focused time from late teens to early twenties). The moustaches that had cred back then belonged to guys who really wore them well. Freddie Mercury of Queen fame and Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) are probably the poster boys for a respectable mo. Everybody else might have given it a go, and we forgave hopeless efforts as being fashionable, but really I now have great difficulty taking them seriously out of that time period.

BUT, if I see a guy rocking a mo in November I will take him seriously because chances are he’s doing it for a good cause. The Movember Foundation is the only global charity focused solely on men’s health, and growing a mo in November is one way to show your support. Another is setting an exercise goal to ‘MOve’ a certain amount in the month.  All good stuff to shine the spotlight on men taking an interest in their health and wellbeing. Men are traditionally not so flash at looking after their health.  Perhaps that might in part be because women generally spend more time at the GP for their own health and those in their care. If they become a mother they are often there with their children and perhaps if the care giver role has fallen to them in their extended family, also attending with elderly parents.

Women are also more used to having our parts ‘examined’ as part of the parenthood journey, be it pregnancy, birth, post birth recovery, or breast feeding. It’s a time of intense focus on the health of your body and you get used to being aware of changes and acting on them. Your mind too, as you factor in the major changes in focus a newborn brings and for some 10% of women, battling post-natal depression. There’s perhaps also more preventative medicine aimed at girls and women throughout their lifespan, like free cervical cancer vaccinations (thankfully newly available for boys now too), cervical cancer smears, and mammograms.

But the blokes I reckon are up for general review much less regularly which provides less opportunity to grow a relationship with your GP, and hence for those casual chats enquiring how things are going.

I know it’s a generalisation, but women are often good about confessing things aren’t trucking along so great with their friends, be it work or career hopes/ difficulties, personal stuff, decisions they are struggling with, traumatic events to work through. We gain strength from talking it through and finding we may not be so unusual after all when others say, ‘me too’. Plus, a problem shared is a problem halved.

For men, saying they find work difficult might feel like an admission of failure that they aren’t as good as their mates. Saying you find it difficult to understand your partner anymore or get bored with the ground hog day of parenthood routine in a thoughtful ‘how to I address this’ manner, rather than a reactionary feeling of being stuck, might also be foreign. Saying you’ve lost hope in a situation or life in general could very much be a bridge too far. What might others think? Perhaps though if they did talk with their mates about their head space, our male suicide rates would be lower. They’d probably find they’re not alone, both in knowing others have also felt that way too and in getting support to change something.

So, go the mo I say this Movember. Even if you can’t do a Freddie or a Tom version, I salute your less hairy effort anyway. It’s a great way to draw attention to men’s health, because we need the men in our life to be encouraged to look after their wellbeing.





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