Movember - getting a handle on men's health.
November is the 11th month of the year, the month where we really start to feel the cold, where the leaves are a golden colour and the month before Christmas really starts to get into full flow but in recent years, it's the month where the men in our lives also grow more facial hair.
"Men are dying on average 6 years earlier than women, and for largely preventable reasons. Unchecked, prostate cancer rates will double over the next 15 years. Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. And across the world, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, with males accounting for 75% of all suicides."
These facts took me aback, I must admit, and for two reasons:
First and foremost, in this day age and in this country, the fact that anyone is dying from preventable reasons makes me quite angry. But what's worse is that these deaths haven't come about from stupidity or carelessness but rather embarrassment or shame.
Toxic masculinity has become a term that more and more people are becoming aware of.
Toxic masculinity is best described as a set of rules and behaviours that men are expected to adhere to; to not show weakness, to not lose, to show little emotion unless it is anger or bravado, to be stoic even when sh*t hits the fan.
Being told to man up or not be a p*ssy is both offensive to women and girls but also extremely damaging for men and boys. Feelings are our own and we should never be judged for them even if we don't agree or understand them. Toxic masculinity also promotes this idea that men must be strong and lead from the top. Here at Women Who Do, we know that this is not true in business, at home, in a relationship or anywhere else, and the World is (slowly) catching up.
But it is so important that the World does catch up.
Whether subconsciously or not, we must stop expecting men to behave like this; we must stop belittling and criticising them for feeling emotion or needing reassurance and support.
This behaviour stops men from opening up and sharing their concerns.
The second reason the above statement from Movember concerned me was that Movember is to raise awareness and promote conversation surrounding all health issues that affect men including prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health issues. If I'm honest, I knew it was there to raise awareness about prostate cancer but I didn't know the details - I'm not sure many know the true extent of Movember's goals.
But why does it matter that we don't know all the details? Surely awareness is good enough.
Well, it means everything.
Accurate and detailed information means that we have everything we need to actually make a difference and help those who need it.
In 2013, a study was undertaken to look at the impact of Movember on social conversations. What was interesting about the results was that very few of the conversations that took place on Twitter were related to health. The study showed that the focus of people's tweets and fundraising was for 'the cause' or their 'moustache' and made very little reference to prostate and testicular cancer. I believe the biggest issue was that there was hardly any informative or proactive information on health concerns and where a man could get support.
So, I'm determined to make this piece different...
There are often no symptoms and if there are, it is more likely to be the result of an enlarged prostate which is a common, non-cancerous condition. Symptoms can include a change in urination that can include a sudden urge to go, difficulty in urinating or feeling that the bladder hasn't emptied fully.
If the cancer has spread, symptoms can include back, hip or pelvic pain, difficulty maintaining an erection, blood in the urine or semen and unexplained weight loss.
Do you know where the prostate is? No? It's here:
Typical symptoms include a change in shape or texture of the testicles. A lump may also be found in one of the testicles that will be the size of a pea but it may differ.
Other symptoms may include an increase of firmness in the testicles or a feeling of heaviness. A sharp pain or dull ache may also come and go in the testicles or scrotum.
It can be very hard to tell if someone is struggling mentally. Some may show a change in behaviour such as becoming more withdrawn or angry but many may not. Check-in with the people around you. Ask, "are you okay?" Just be there, judgement-free.
Please note that if you have any concerns, it is always worth going to see your GP.
Charities and organisations that are there to help and provide information.
Please take a look at Movember's website. I'm all for the growing of (sometimes questionable) moustaches if it grows awareness. But as we've discussed, it's important that we have the facts too.
Grow your moustache and your knowledge. That way we'll really make a difference.
Men's Health Forum is a charity that is helping men, boys and professionals in England, Scotland and Wales to become more informed. This includes information on symptoms, services and treatments. There is also a forum where men share their experiences and discusses how to handle work, doctor's appointments and handy tips to make the day easier.
This charity is determined to get people to talk whether it's man to man or between men and women. They have lots of resources and real-life stories that aim to start conversations, challenge stigma and end health discrimination.
Call - 08457 90 90 90
None of us want to think about being in a place where it has all got too much; a day when the clouds have gathered and won't go away. But it may happen to any of us and it's important that we always have someone to talk to. If you can't talk to a loved one, that's ok - there are always samaritans at the end of the phone.
Let's look after each other.
Katie Eade, It's Her Business Editor
Katie is a qualified primary school teacher, experienced tutor and is an advocate for creativity, individuality and strong mental health. She founded Happy&co to support children with their learning, confidence and self-esteem. The best part of her job is building relationships with the children and family's she works with.
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