Three Senior Lecturers from Edge Hill’s School of Applied Health, Social Care & Social Work explain why this year’s Movember is more important than ever.
Dr Michael Richards, John Marsden and Dr Sean Creaney reflect on why COVID-19 presents such a risk to men’s mental health and how society can offer more support to people who are struggling.
COVID-19 and men’s health
Understandably the focus of the world right now is on finding a vaccine for COVID-19. But because the focus of the NHS is on caring for COVID patients, men’s mental health is being neglected.
Men are already more reluctant to seek support for their mental health issues so the further complication of COVID exacerbates an already present failure to provide the right treatments at the right time.
It’s also the case that men are more likely to suffer and die from COVID-19. This could be due to a number of reasons not only individual factors such as smoking and drinking, lack of handwashing and a tendency to downplay the seriousness of the illness leading to delays in seeking medical help. But also social factors such as housing inequality, unemployment, and a lack of education opportunities. This affects men disproportionately with working class, black Asian and minority ethnic and disabled men particularly affected.
This means that a large number of men are particularly vulnerable during this very difficult time. Many groups face health inequalities but working class men are particularly vulnerable. And are more likely to take risks related to smoking and alcohol consumption, with their morbidity and mortality rates higher than their middle‐class peers across all age groups. Working‐class men tend to place a primacy on physical toughness and emotional invulnerability, and this too can contribute significantly to men’s vulnerability during this crisis.
Adding to this is the damage that has been done to businesses and the economy throughout 2020 which has left men experiencing personal, social and economic hardships. It is particularly difficult for those who occupied a precarious or marginalised position in society before the restrictions. Those men are now feeling increasingly isolated, exacerbating already present emotional and mental health difficulties. Further lockdown measures may intensify these effects.
In response to this crisis affecting men’s mental health, it is vital that we act to protect men and promote positive healthy behaviours.
With men being particularly vulnerable, amongst other groups such as black Asian and minority ethnic and people with disabilities, it is all the more important to reignite or reaffirm successful campaigns to promote men’s health.
Since 2004, the Movember movement has encouraged men to grow moustaches during November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer, but also other major health issues affecting men, including depression and suicide.
Although understandable, the focus on COVID-19 and physical health will only deepen the crisis in men’s mental health. It is crucial not to overly individualise the difficulties men experience. They are not solely responsible for the situation they are in. Structural factors play a significant part in determining their health and wellbeing.
Maybe this year on International Men’s Day – 19th November – we can think about the men we know in our lives and remind them of the importance of emotional health and wellbeing. We are not only here to survive. We are here to thrive.
Edge Hill offers a wide variety of applied health and social care courses which look at aspects of psychology, public health, and wellbeing. to find out more visit the course page – www.edgehill.ac.uk/health/ahsc/.