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Advocating For Men's Health This Month and Beyond

Illustration of a man lying on the couch while scrolling on his cell phone.
Illustration by Unsplash/Getty Images

Men's Health Awareness Month is observed in June and was founded in 1994 after a bill was introduced to and passed by Congress to bring awareness to early detection and treatment of health conditions in men. The purpose of Men's Health Month is to help encourage men to focus on taking care of their health and addressing preventable health problems. When researching this topic, I found myself questioning: How bad are these problems that we dedicate an entire month to bringing awareness to the topic?

Men Live Shorter, Sicker Lives

Here are some brief stats regarding men's health these days:

When The Cleveland Clinic surveyed over 500 American men between the ages of 18-70 about their use of healthcare resources, this is what they found:

  • Only 3 out of 5 men get annual physicals

  • Over 40% of men only go to the doctor when they think they have a serious medical condition.

  • More than half of men admitted that they do not talk about their health.

  • 65% of participants said they avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible.

There is an age-old stereotype about men not wanting to go to a doctor or get help, but I never imagined how true this could be. With the many problems that they are likely to face, I would imagine that men would want to keep up with their doctor's appointments. But I was quite wrong. When asked about it from Healthline, a firefighter/paramedic stated that he has had male patients refuse transport to the hospital even while having a heart attack. What could prevent someone actively having a medical emergency refuse help or treatment?

A lone, Asian man stares out of a large window, back facing the camera.
Photo by Zhu Liang on Unsplash

Why Do Men Avoid Seeking Help?

Rather than one single reason, there's a combination of reasons why the average man may avoid going to a doctor, seeking therapy, etc. A lot of it, however, can be attributed to Fear and Ego.

When we mention Fear, we're not only talking about the general fear and anxiety we feel when going to a doctor's appointment. In addition to that, there's the added fear of being vulnerable. A while back I drafted a blog series on Vulnerability, with one segment dedicated to the challenge of vulnerability for men. Nobody enjoys being vulnerable, but it can be even more difficult for men who, on a societal scale, have been expected to act stoic and unnerved through any situation.

Today's adult men have been raised with a "man up" mentality. Inadvertently, this has led to multiple generations of men who have not learned how to process emotions in a healthy manner, as well as men who avoid admitting to being in pain. However, men must realize that this mentality causes harm to them and their loved ones.

This easily dominoes into the Ego problem. For a man who has been taught not to cry, to "throw some dirt" on his injuries, to "figure it out" when reached with a tough problem, the idea of going to the doctor can sound ridiculous.

In a culture in which you're expected to be strong and to grin and bear it, acknowledging your health problems can seem ridiculous and "wimpy". A mindset that enforces this false idea of toughness is inadvertently creating a culture in which men are encouraged to downplay their health issues. Many have been made to believe that the most effective solution is no solution because "It's just not that serious". Unfortunately, for men like this, the problem only gets addressed when things get way too serious, i.e. life-threatening.

With this in mind, it is easy for men to overlook or brush off their symptoms because they have been conditioned not to speak about their physical or emotional pain. When injured, the 'manly' thing is to "walk it off". On the other side, women typically have no problem voicing their issues, especially when it comes to both physical and mental healthcare.

A group of young black men are gathered, laughing at something amusing on one of their cell phones
Photo by Siviwe Kapteyn on Unsplash

What Can Be Done about Men's Health?

The push for awareness and movement in men's health isn't going to happen overnight. However, it does start with men creating spaces in which they and their peers can openly discuss and share resources on their health and well-being. Women like myself can help to spread awareness of such topics and resources, but ultimately the movement starts within. Men, like other groups, will have to strategize and work among themselves for permanent solutions to the ongoing health and wellness issues that they face.

Below, let's take a look at some of the resources and organizations available that cater to men's health:

The Face It Foundation was created in 2009 to help men understand and overcome depression, as well as reduce the rate of male suicide. Face It provides men's support groups, one-on-one peer support, outreach events, public education, and training for mental health professionals.

MenLiving describes itself as a non-profit committed to improving men's lives through connection. This organization believes in creating bonds that are key to fulfillment, health, and longevity.

Men's Health Network has a mission to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and play with health awareness and disease prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.

Established in 2018, Black Men Health is a grassroots nonprofit organization created as an answer to the broken inequitable mental health care system that usually does not center the needs of marginalized Black and Brown communities. Their goal is to eliminate the barriers that contribute to health disparities and inequities that exist for BIPOC communities to seek treatment, and to help increase the likelihood that Black men will self-initiate treatment for mental health struggles.

While I originally wanted to share this post during Men's Health Week or Father's Day, I believe it is more important for us to remember that we should not limit our support and awareness for men's health to a particular day or month. The resources I have listed are just a few of many that are available. But the real work will be what is happening in our everyday relationships: are we encouraging the men in our lives to keep up with their medical appointments? Are we making ourselves known as a shoulder to lean on for our friends? Are we presenting ourselves as reliable and non-judgemental when male friends are going through mental and emotional hardship?

June is Men's Health Awareness Month, but we should all make it a goal that we are not only considering the well-being of our peers for a dedicated month.

Thanks for reading,



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