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News > The Wyvern Review > Men's Health Week

Men's Health Week

Hamish Andreas, Jye Fong and Charlie Wigan
Hamish Andreas, Jye Fong and Charlie Wigan

Last week Hamish Andreas, Jye Fong and Charlie Wigan launched our first 'Men's Health Week' at King's. This is a week that is celebrated every year around the world to highlight the importance of men's health and to promote and support the health and wellbeing of men in our communities. The week involved activities that encouraged connection and provoked thought and discussion about what needs to be done to improve men's health.

Why don't men open up?

Sadly, many men don't share their thoughts and emotions not because they don't have any (boys are born just as sensitive as girls (Kraemer, 2000),but because they learn, early on, to fear what would happen if they do discuss their feelings.

It's well known that boys are socialised from an early age to conform to masculine norms, such as competitiveness, toughness and stoicism. They are conditioned to believe that expressing any kind of vulnerable emotion is 'weak' and to 'just get on with things.'

What happens when we don't express our emotions?

Expressing our thoughts, feelings and vulnerabilities is an essential part of being human (Izard, 2009). Our brain can often go into a fight or flight state when we don't express our emotions. This is a physical reaction to stress, and it can set off a number of reactions in our bodies. It can slow down digestive functions, increase heart rate and make us feel depressed or anxious.

Young men are less likely to get help and have fewer tools to cope with emotions and stress compared to girls (Rice et al., 2018). Not being able to process emotions effectively, can lead to anger outbursts, addictive behaviours, distorted thinking, broken relationships, spiralling life problems, isolation, depression and in the worst cases, suicide. 

What can we do?

Create an environment where young men feel comfortable to talk.

Whether it's at home, school, college, university, or work, try to build an empathetic culture.

According to psychologist Allira Power, in order to break down boys 'emotional walls' we need to normalise open dialogue in our environments. 

We need fathers, principals, student leaders and bosses to normalise that life is hard and we all go through rocky patches. We need to use opportunities and mediums like dinner table conversations, school assemblies, social media posts, college podcasts and meetings to share some of our struggles. Teaching young men that it's normal to have hard times and that it's OK to reach out for help can assist them in overcoming their barriers to being vulnerable. Hamish Adreas' speech at our Commemoration Dinner last week was a wonderful example of this.

Create opportunities for young men to connect with other young men.

Having male friends in early adulthood can help buffer against stress

Experts suggest creating opportunities for men to connect with other men, then it's about the individual being brave enough to open up.

During our Men's Health Week, we provided the following activities for our young men to connect:

·        A mini world cup soccer tournament on the quad

·        Gym sessions

·        Watching sport

·        Painting

·        BBQ by the pool

 Deepening male friendships

Nevertheless, author Andrew Reiner of 'Better Boys, Better Men' says that while boys may connect by bumping shoulders in sport or playing video games, sometimes these activities are a 'convenient distraction from meaningful connection.'

As I mentioned before, at some point men need to be brave enough to open up.

Being open and vulnerable is a risk. Sometimes people judge us, make fun of us or share our secrets with others. But, if they do, it says more about them than it says about us.

Despite the risks of vulnerability, which are real, friendship expert Franco (2022) believes the rewards are even more real.

Being vulnerable, makes us feel physically and mentally healthier, it makes our friendships deeper and helps us to better understand ourselves. Without vulnerability, 'there's a ceiling you reach in a friendship that you can't exceed' Dr Franco said. And while we give people the chance to hurt us more deeply when we are vulnerable, we also give them the power to love us more deeply.

Final thoughts

It's important to have realistic expectations around applying some of these tips. Change takes time. Talking about mental health is tough for anyone, not just men. But we can all open the door and take steps to create environments and opportunities to have real, honest conversations and encourage men to get help if they need it.

 

 

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