November 17, 2016

Everyone knows the old running joke about men and asking for directions, right? So, would it be any surprise to discover that men find it hard to ask for help with other very important things? It’s not, and their struggle to be open and honest about needing help is impacting families and lives in serious ways.

This month is “Movember”, a 30-day awareness campaign created by the Movember Foundation which works to help “men live happier, healthier, longer lives.” NBC’s TODAY Show has been focusing on men’s health issues in support of Movember, and I saw several interviews and segments that prompted me to consider the challenge with men and candor about their health.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, men are often too embarrassed to talk about things like testicular cancer or mental health issues. And Dr. Stephen Snyder, a psychiatrist affiliated with Mt. Sinai Hospital, says men seem to believe “going it alone” is a noble, brave quality. Consider these statistics:

  • Only one in five men is very comfortable doing a self-exam for testicular cancer. Although a majority of men, 88 percent, think they should self-examine, only 14 percent do. (According to the TODAY-commissioned report “State of Men 2016,” a Berland Strategy online survey of 1,001 adult males.)
  • Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women, white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2014, and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular. (The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

I am reminded of my own friend, who ignored abdominal pain for some time and then was diagnosed and killed by cancer. It was heartbreaking for his family – for all of us. I can’t help but wonder if the outcome might have been different had this tirelessly hard-working, perpetually jovial person felt more comfortable seeking immediate help for his own health.

So, how does candor help?

We need to talk about this, to be honest about it. Let’s change the conversation. ~ Kevin Hines, 34, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and ambassador for the Movemeber Foundation.

We must embolden men to be open and honest about what ails them, mentally and physically, and to be direct in addressing their own health needs. We can encourage them by sharing stories and outcomes of candor as it relates to men’s health successes and tragedies. We must cultivate friendships and relationships that embrace candor in conversations about tough things.

And regarding that old notion of “manning up,” Dr. Oz says:

If you really want to man-up, you want to protect your family. The most important thing a man needs to do… is to be there for the people in his life. It is profoundly important to get men to understand that if they are not healthy… they won’t be there for the rest of their family if they need some help.