he adds. This self-perpetuating messageruns below consciousness. “It takes aconscious override to say, ‘I need to talkto someone about the distress I am feeling.’If you haven’t had practice at it, youneed to do so.”
Depression, anxiety and alcohol useare three big mental health challengesthat men commonly wrestle with intheir lifetime. But their attitudes andbehaviours often leave them ill-equippedto face them down.
Ten per cent of men experiencesymptoms of mental health disorders andsubstance dependencies, according tothe Canadian Mental Health Association.
While vulnerability and a willingnessto talk openly about their feelings arehardly male hallmarks, they are helpfultraits for improving mental health.
Why are men reluctant to admit tomental health concerns?
“In general, men identify themselves
Beat cancer with
in terms of strength and learn very early
to hide signs of what may be considered
weakness,” says Dr. Michael Trew, senior
medical director, Addiction and Mental
Health Strategic Clinical Network,
Alberta Health Services. “To identify
or acknowledge struggling feels like
failure. So we try and hide our failures.”
Additionally, men compete and
don’t want to reveal vulnerability,
For many types of cancer, how we livedetermines our risk for the disease.
“For a healthy lifestyle, avoid thingslike smoking and excessive alcoholconsumption, and try to have a healthydiet and exercise,” recommends Ruether.
Risk factors related to lifestyle includeeating a diet high in fat, red meats anddairy products; stress; tobacco useand a low level of physical activity.
Non-lifestyle factors include beingover age 50 and family history.
“When it comes to cancer, the biggestdifferences between men and womenare really psychological and social,with women more inclined to shareinformation and seek support,” saysRuether. “Men are more isolated.
I’m not sure there are big differences
Men need to have a conversation with
their family physician about screening
for prostate cancer at age 50 or earlier.
For men at average risk of colon cancer,screening begins at age 50.
“The Canadian Cancer Society hasgood information about cancer risk,”says Ruether. “I would encourage peopleto visit their local cancer agencies forother educational materials relatedto cancer.”
A matter of size: The midsection spread
When watching sports, a lot of guys like to look at the predicted pointspread before a game, trying to figure out who is most likely to win. Onespread they can’t always figure out is the one on their own midsection.
Knowing the right portions of food and drinks and choosing healthieroptions, whether it’s during the big game or sitting down with family, arejust a few of the ways guys can get healthier, say experts.
But it’s easier said than done. For many men, just setting one healthy-eating goal can be a difficult first step toward lifestyle change.
“The biggest challenge for most adult Canadians is to achieve a healthybody weight,” says Dr. David Lau, president of Obesity Canada and editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Diabetes. Lau is also professor ofMedicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Julia McFarlaneDiabetes Research Centre, and chair of the Diabetes and EndocrineResearch Group at the University of Calgary.
“We tend to overeat and not do enough exercise.”
Talking can help
It’s at this juncture women can help.
“Men are more likely to talk to womenthan other men about struggles of variouskinds,” says Trew. “If women hear thesekinds of messages, it’s important toacknowledge there may be some realityto it. If the man got up his courage tosay something, the last thing they needto hear is something to the effect it’s notthat bad.”