We asked one of our members of staff to write about his own personal story and thoughts on why Men’s Health Week is so important to raise awareness, get men talking and take action to manage their own health. Darryl is a Project Manager for PKB working with our customers in the South West to implement PKB for their patients. Here’s his story …
Suffering from hair loss? Erectile dysfunction? Gambling to extremes? Drinking too much? Have you made your will? Don’t you think you had better get some life insurance, old man?
I am not quite sure what the algorithms on the internet feel I should be looking for, but the above questions are typically sent by advertisers on social media and email many times a day to me. I guess, to coin the title of a tune from a very popular movie with a new sequel, I am 42 and moving into the “danger zone”.
My generation straddles the pre-internet and internet ages, and I have had the great pleasure of witnessing both the era of being a man’s man (namely smoking heavily, having long boozy lunches and where peeling the vegetables for the Sunday lunch was the only housework scheduled in) and the modern social media obsessed generation, where going to the gym involves wearing slimfit tracksuit bottoms and repeatedly taking selfies for those all important likes.
My bitter tone alone suggests I am moving into grumpy old man territory, and as such I should really be taking a serious look at my physical and mental wellbeing, to try and ensure I get to stick around on this lovely planet for as long as possible.
With that in mind…Men’s Health Week is running from June 13-19 and the 2022 message is focusing on the need for men to get a health MOT.
The Men’s Health Forum are asking men to do the following:
- Take notice of what’s going on in your body and mind.
- Do the Forum’s quick and easy DIY Man MOT
- Get yourself a copy of the CAN DO manual which will also be online soon, a FREE download manual collecting together all the great ideas our Men’s Health Champions have had for things we can all do to boost our mental wellbeing. (If you’d like to train to be a champion in time for Men’s Health Week, you can sign up here for the June Men’s Health Champions course.)
- Dig a bit deeper with our existing Man MOT manuals: Man MOT and Man MOT for the Mind.
- Get an NHS Health Check
- Go and see your GP or use NHS 111 if you’re concerned about any symptoms
Numerous studies have highlighted that men are significantly less likely to visit their GP and more likely to delay seeking support or treatment. In recent years it has been great to see an increase in high profile campaigns targeting men’s physical and mental health, but more needs to be done to stop men burying their heads in the sand and to become more willing to talk about what is troubling them.
My own father passed away at the age of 69, after four lots of heart surgery dating back to his late 30s. Joining the Navy at a young age, his life was filled with adventure, explosives, deep sea diving and weekends of hell-raising in exotic ports around the globe. Sailors were given free cigarettes and each day at 11am duly downed their tot of rum, which was about the size of a large treble…all aboard for HMS Emphysema and HMS Delirium Tremens!
He was released suddenly after 10 years due to a heart murmur and swiftly ended up back on “Civvy Street.” His commitment to the hard living lifestyle promoted in the Navy remained steadfast, although he did switch in the 1980s to cigars, thus considering himself a non-smoker and ticking that box on any medical form sent his way.
Throughout his life he underwent four open heart surgeries, having his aortic valve replaced three times and the mitral valve replaced once. Each surgery and rehab was of course incredibly taxing physically and emotionally, but each time he bravely bounced back and then retrained in order to seek new employment.
He became a qualified lecturer in Motor Vehicle Studies, and then a fully qualified support worker at what was then known as the West of England School for the Blind. People did not really talk about mental health in the 1980s and 90s, but I now look back and wonder if more could have been done via our health service to have enabled him to talk about the trauma of both the operations and the career setbacks caused by illness, as I am sure there were a lot of thoughts and feelings he needed to let out.
I can at least confirm though that having his records and files digitally in Patients Know Best would have been an excellent thing! By the time Dad was on his fourth heart surgery, it would have taken about six volunteers in the hospital and a trolley to wheel his notes about. If only he had been able to receive his INR results into PKB, it would have saved him many hundreds of hours of playing phone tennis with the GP surgery.
While looking into the subject of men’s health, I came across some interesting themes that I would like to highlight below.
Smoking was for many years the biggest killer of men
Men were bombarded in daily life by advertising for cigarettes and alcohol. So effective was this advertising that in 1962 over 70% of men in the UK smoked, with the number of deaths attributed to smoking peaking in 1970 with an astonishing 35% of all deaths being smoking related.
Advertisers portrayed smoking and drinking alcohol as important to being a man’s man, with campaigns such as the “Marlboro Man” proving hugely successful. Unfortunately being a “Marlboro Man” was a dangerous job…five of the main models depicting the character in advertisements would later go on to die due to smoking related illnesses.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 50 and nearly ¾ of all suicides are men
It is an incredibly complex subject, with a wide range of reasons given as to why men commit suicide. The Samaritans are the only organisation that fully tracks suicide statistics across the UK and Republic of Ireland, a task made more difficult due to often extensive delays in deaths being registered as suicide.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in young men
The good news is that there is almost a 100% cure rate if caught early. It is hugely important for men to regularly check their testicles, and seek help as soon as something feels different. While doing postgraduate studies in Canada, I was fortunate to work on a testicular cancer awareness project with some student colleagues. It was amazing how little was spoken about the illness in the mainstream media. We proudly got an in depth report on national nightly news.
What next for men’s health?
There is no doubt in my mind that more conversations are happening around both the physical and mental aspects of men’s health, and this is clearly a good thing. The younger generation seem to be more aware than ever of the importance of exercise and good nutrition, but what will the long-term effect of social media (the largest unregulated experiment in history) on mental health, attention spans and happiness be? Are our health services geared up for treating mental health issues on a bigger scale?
If (and I speak as one) the statistics conclude that men are inherently lazy/in denial about our mortality, then we need to make the process of seeking help and self-managing health as easy and painless as possible.
Thanks to evolving digital solutions such as PKB, patients can easily access the results they need, book appointments at the click of a button, and engage with their medical teams to receive the right advice and information. What is not to like about filling out a quick questionnaire or a few symptoms online, especially if it can save you from having to take half a day out to visit the dreaded hospital for a regular appointment you don’t need?
You can easily do it on your phone at the same time as booking your next tee time or buying that must have purchase on Ebay.
Men’s Health Forum – a charity supporting men’s health in England, Wales and Scotland, with the ambition that all men and boys – particularly those in the most disadvantaged areas and communities – will have the information, services and treatments they need to live healthier, longer and more fulfilling lives.
Movember – a charity funding groundbreaking projects all over the world, engaging men to understand what works best and accelerate change.
Samaritans – FREE 24 hour phone line – 116 123 – staffed by trained volunteers who will talk to you about anything. Email them (firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit a local branch and just walk in and talk to someone – there are over 200 branches in the UK and Ireland.
CALM – helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year on 0800 585858. CALM specifically exist to reduce male suicide and are used to talking to men about how they’re feeling. You’ll also find more information about some of the issues that make men feel suicidal.