June is Men's Health Month

It is June 2021, which is Men’s Health Month. Why do I emphasize June 2021? In 2004 I was volunteering, and receiving services, at a wonderful program in Tucson, AZ: The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault. I was tasked to visit bookstores around town and explore the number of self-help books for male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I found an average of 3-4 books written for men underneath shelf-after-shelf of similar books for women. This discrepancy stunned me considering what we know about men’s mental health.

Over the last decade we have learned that 9% of men live with feelings of depression or anxiety – that’s 34.4 million men! 90% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are men. Suicide rates among males is 3.7x higher than females. The National Institutes of Health reports that illicit drug use is more likely to result in ED visits or overdose deaths for men. 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g., beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Intimate partner victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.

So how did we get here? Generations, centuries even, of social, gender and cultural norms have brought us to this point. Propagation of slogans such as “be a man”, “buck it up”, “boys don’t cry” and “stop being a weenie” has brought us to this point. The pressure of social norms to be the bread-winner and provider has brought us to this point. Failure to reflect on our own symptoms and signs of depression, and other conditions, has brought us to this point.

What can we do to eliminate the stigma around men’s mental health issues? While there are many solutions, allow me to share what I did: I became an advocate for more community resources for men. I got involved with awareness month movements and social organizations. And I began to tell my story and share it with others. I became a peer support specialist!

Today, there are more books on the shelves, more community resources (especially for men of color and other marginalized male populations), and there are more men speaking about their struggles and victories over mental health and substance use challenges. This is due to the thousands of collectives of men’s voices shouting out and making a change.

Recently public figures such as Bruce Springsteen, Robert Downey Jr., Hugh Laurie, Prince Harry, Marcus Smith II, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Phelps and even Pope Francis have come forward to talk about their struggles with mental health and/or substance use. More importantly, they have brought forth the solutions they found along their journey of recovery and resilience. With so many articles out there for men’s physical health, it is good to reflect on what we can do for our mental health.

Here are some solutions I have found: Reduce the stress, increase physical activity with a healthy balance of sleep, eat right with nutritionally charged dishes, and create a social support system where you can communicate openly. Talk to your doctor about your healthcare. Many conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart issues as well as lower levels of testosterone are directly linked with higher incidences of anxiety and depression. For many, talk therapy has been the pathway to a healthy quality of life.

What change will you make for your physical and mental health this month? What changes will you make for the physical and mental health of all men “this lifetime”? Let us know. Share your knowledge and join other men from around the world in creating a better quality of life for ourselves, our loved ones and humanity!

Arrow Foster
Since 2007, Arrow has collaborated with peer leaders in driving the recovery movement and assisting people to move from victim to victor in their recovery journey. Arrow enjoys mentoring new Rehabilitation Counselor and Occupational Therapists in Psychiatric Rehabilitation practices and principles to create a new workforce of change agents. For self-care, Arrow embraces the rejuvenating powers of the forests through camping and hiking.