Let’s Talk About Men’s Health

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By Rev Wambui Njoroge

June is men’s health month in the US. Take time to raise awareness for men’s health in your community. Encourage men to practice healthy living, by making important decisions like scheduling annual physical examination with a primary care doctor, exercise, eat healthy, and maintain supportive family relationships. If a man knows his health like he knows his car, this health living can be accomplished.  Also, by role modeling, men can teach boys and young adults in their family to do the same, including young males in their cycle of social influence. I almost wrote social media influence!

Physical Examination: Good news for men. Male doctors outnumber female doctors. 64% to 36% (Kaiser family Foundation). This should make it easier for men to get an annual physical. While making a personal appointment, take with you males in your family, teenage boys, young adults, and Seniors. Taking others with you is one way to model good health. After the wellness check, go out and have a good time together. If you have medical insurance, the annual physical is free. If you do not have insurance, check what is available in your Zip Code (www.freeclinics.com) type your state and county of residence. In addition, take advantage of the free community health fair check.  Many Cities in the US conduct free screenings for families in the community. Another area of concern for men is mental health.  The primary care doctor is a good and safe person to start with. Your doctor will be able to sift through presenting symptoms and can refer you to a mental health provider like a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a therapist. Mental health providers can help you to manage depression issues. 

Statistics on men’s mental Health: 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety. More than 42 million Americans experience a mental illness each year. Men die by suicide 3.5 more often than women. The preferred weapon used in suicide is a gun. 6 out of 10 men experience one trauma in life. Men are more likely to experience trauma related to motor vehicle accidents, physical assault (a young father in S. GA once told me, Mama Ciru-don’t even get into that topic. Do you know men fight at the drop of a hat?). Other related trauma is caused by combat, disaster, or men who witness death or jury. Men binge drink X 2 more than women. They higher rates of alcohol, and drug related hospitalization and deaths. “Men are also more likely to have used alcohol before dying by suicide” (mindwise.org). Suicide statistics by American Association of Suicidology.

Talk About it: Men Don’t Want to Talk About it: 40% of men won’t talk about their issues. This is where we come in as Mental Health STARS (Start Talking and Remove Stigma). Having a candid conversations of mental health disorders encourages men to seek help early. Research from www.healthdirect.gov indicate that men struggle with all the 3 categories of mental health: (1) Anxiety.   (2) Personality Disorders. (3) Psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia). The disorders stem from contributing factors of (1) Biology, (2) Psychology, (3) Environmental. Or they can be the result of the interplay of many variables.  Even with categories and factors identified, the message for June is that mental health issues experienced by men are treatable. Consider that just because research states that there is a predisposition of mental illness with one’s biological or heredity factors does not mean that every man in the family is a candidate for illness. It is, therefore, important to take care of ones physical, and mental health. I want to emphasize here that, perhaps, the most important inheritance men and women need to acquire in this century is not more lands, properties, and the like. One needs to know their family health history. Please understand that your health is your wealth. If anyone can remain in good health throughout the years, there is no goal or objective that one has set that will not be accomplished in time. A man’s Number one resolution and goal should always be “Being in Good Health.”

Relationship of depression and suicide: Men who are depressed may feel hopeless and consider suicide. Recently there is this huge debate of mass shootings that is always blamed on mental health. Although most depressed people do not kill others, or kill themselves, most people who commit suicide and mass killings have a diagnosable mental and/or substance abuse disorder. Whether diagnosed or not. Therefore, any discussion of suicide or killing people for whatever reason, should be taken seriously. It is unfortunate that mass murderers are committed by individuals who have given all the warning signs of depression, who have a diagnosable mental illness, and without exception someone who was bullied in school – it is important to note that many things we observe in adulthood, some may have been set in life since teenage years, but were ignored at home, school, and community. If someone you know makes comments like, “I will never be happy again.” Or I am better dead than alive. “I can kill someone…in the family” Listen carefully.  Adults do not threaten to murder to call attention to their plight. People who make these kinds of statements, tell, talk, and write, post on social media, Instagram, Facebook, twitter, text, buy weapons prior to committing these murders, and threaten lives. Take them seriously because they may be considering harming themselves or harming others. We can all do something to save a life. When you See and hear something. Say something to prevent the murders of innocent lives.

Depression and Suicide: Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line by Phone and Text. The Aim is to keep a person alive.  Call 1-800-27-8255 Support Via Txt Msg. TEXT HOME to 741741 (NAMI).  Service members, Veterans and their families can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by Texting 838255, and through online chats at: veteranscrisisline.net. Watch out for a new number 988-the nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit dialing code for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors (www.fcc.gov). 

Prevention is Better than Cure: We may need to talk more often about medical and mental health issues of men. Most are treatable, preventable and others are even curable when diagnosed early. Perhaps one of the areas of men’s health that is overlooked by African men is High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. In literature, sometimes, High Blood Pressure is often called the “silent killer” because for the most part, people don’t have any symptoms. A few months ago, I asked a nurse, “Why are so many young men in diaspora dying in their sleep?” Could there be an underlying cause? Is there a silent killer? We associate good health with youthfulness, we reason that our brothers and our parents did not have High Blood pressure. Some even say meds in America are not safe, yet Americans are living longer, and our men are suddenly sleeping dead, falling dead…So, consider for once that in the last 15-20 years you are living in the US. Consider that your village and country have changed. You live in a modern world where you are exposed to environmental causes of disease than just biology. Even your diet has changed since you arrived in US. You can adapt to change or die in ignorance or incorporate healthy decisions for life. Educate yourself because Africans, and Black men in the US are at a disadvantage. There is scant research in this area. So, the research we read, and review is mostly for Caucasian males (Western European ancestry). I hope we can encourage researchers to investigate the lives of African (Black people of African descent). In the meantime, your medical and mental health is your wealth.

What Next?  A Call to “988” on July 16, 2022

Coming Soon: In the US- and the Five major U.S. territories-American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. On July 16, 2022, watch out for the Lifeline A Call to “988” will route calls to the National Prevention Lifeline.  Also coming soon: Texting to 988.  Under FCC Rules, calls to 988 will be directed to 1-800-273-TALK. This easy to remember number, will likely make it easier for families to reach the necessary help in times of crisis

Comments/Email-revwambuifavored@gmail.com    

Rev. Wambui Njoroge is the Interim Chair: Mental Health Stars Association, Inc. Freelance writer for Kenyan Parent In USA; and MHSTARSA, Inc. Read other articles on raising awareness of issues in US, with a Diaspora Focus on family, health, religion, education, and politics.

Online Resources in the Public Domain: www.mhnational.org, www.mentalhealth.org

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