For many of us the festive season is stacked with work dos, catch ups with mates and celebrations with family. That means plenty of time for chit chat. Instead of remarking on the weather or what you got up to over the weekend, these are great opportunities to cover off some important topics with your nearest and dearest. It’s time to make discussing men’s health as natural as talking footy tactics so, if you’re stumped for conversation starters while tending to the snags, here are some ideas that will do your wellbeing a world a good.
Normalise healthy habits
COVID-19 and physical distancing restrictions have seen a dramatic slide in routine testing — the pathology sector saw a 40% drop in testing earlier this year, with an estimated 60,000 Australians missing out on potentially life-saving tests. In May, the Prostate Cancer Foundation reported a 60% drop in the number of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests in the eight weeks prior, compared to the same time last year. If you’ve put off an appointment this year, book yourself in as soon as possible (even if it’s just a routine check-up) and encourage the other men in your life to do the same.
Kick off the convo with… I finally got that [insert health issue] taken care of, I wish I hadn’t put it off so long. Or… I hear cancer diagnoses in men is way down this year because of COVID-19, have you had a check up recently?
Make mental health a more comfortable topic
Blokes make up an average of six out of every eight suicides every single day in our country, with LGBTQI and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at even higher risk. Men are told directly and indirectly throughout their lives that discussing feelings is weak and bottling up emotions is the norm. This can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety going unrecognised and untreated. There are many factors that play a role in higher risk of suicide for men, but depression, and how they deal with it, is one of them. It might feel uncomfortable checking in on a mate but sucking up the temporary awkwardness can make all the difference in the long run.
Kick off the convo with… You haven’t seemed yourself lately — is everything OK? Or… I can hear the last few months have been rough for you, what’s been going on?
Find out your family health history
Sure, you might have a vague idea of what illnesses your family has faced but how much do you really know about your hereditary risk factors? Understanding your family health history is important as it’s one of the strongest influences on your risk of developing diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Even though you can’t change your genetic makeup, the knowledge can help reduce your risk of developing health problems through screening tests and lifestyle changes. The key features of family history that may increase risk include:
- Disease in more than one close relative
- Diseases that occur at an earlier age than expected (10 to 20 years before most people get the disease)
- Disease that does not usually affect a certain gender (such as breast cancer in males)
- Certain combinations of diseases within a family (such as heart disease and diabetes)
Kick off the convo with… I’ve gotta book in a check-up, do you know what runs in our family?
Reach out to someone who might be struggling
Not everyone finds the festive season merry and bright. For some, it can be time when feelings of loneliness and isolation can be more intense than ever. New research suggests that the pandemic has worsened the already alarming state of loneliness in Australia, with one in two Australians reporting they feel lonelier since COVID-19 began. Loneliness has far reaching consequences for our physical and mental health, with research finding it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and even early death. If you think someone might be feeling isolated right now, Christmas is a great time to connect with them. This could be a phone call, a catch up at the pub or an invitation to family celebrations.
Kick off the convo with… It’s been a rough year I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing?