In public health we’re faced with a dilemma. We want to help people – that’s our goal, that’s why we do what we do. But at the same time, we also need to be careful how we approach public health concerns – the last thing we want to do is further stigmatize the very people we’re trying to help. One of the most subtle, but most powerful ways we can either empower or belittle others is in the language we use.
One area at the forefront of this is the field of mental health research. The “traditional” language would be a “X person,” where X refers to any mental health issue. But this isn’t the best language to use. For one, it defines the person by their illness – not by who they are. They have X, first and foremost. Not their interests, their personalities, their hobbies. They’re labelled and defined.
I’m going to get up onto my soapbox and rant a little.
Friends. Movember is drawing to a close, and I thank you all for your support, financial and otherwise. And for those of you mocking me for growing such a glorious Mo, well, you’re just jealous.
But there’s more to Movember than just growing a Mo.
There’s the issue of Men’s Health, which sometimes gets lost in the messaging. While women are very proactive and supportive of women’s health issues, men have a level of indifference that is concerning and don’t seek out help (see references below). One of the major reasons Bros don’t seek out help is due to embarrassment. Why? Because we’re afraid of being made fun of? Because we figure if we ignore it it’ll “just go away”? Because we don’t want to appear “weak”? The consequences of not seeking help could include cancer, depression or worse. What’s weak about tackling those issues? Those are incredibly tough things to deal with – if anything they require more strength. If you’re a Mo Bro, get your annual physical. Get checked out. Go see the doctor if you need it – don’t wait. Talk to a healthcare professional if you need it, and make an informed decision on your future. Many health issues are curable and treatable if caught early – the longer you wait the worse they can get. For all the Mo Sistas and Mo Bros out there, support your Bros. Mo Bros are likely to put off seeing the doctor and ignore health concerns, but with support this attitude can shift.
We’ve all had a good laugh over this month, and it’s a fun month for sure. But let’s not forget the serious health consequences that this month highlights.
For more information, check the Movember page on Men’s Health Issues.
Thanks to Michelle D for the idea for this post and Vanessa V for feedback.
Tudiver F, Talbot Y. Why don’t men seek help? Family physicians’ perspectives on help-seeking behavior in men. J Fam Pract. 1999 Jan;48(1):47-52.
Winerman, L. Helping men to help themselves. Available online.
Vogel, DL, Heimerdinger-Edwards, SR, Hammer, JH, Hubbard, A. “Boys don’t cry”: Examination of the links between endorsement of masculine norms, self-stigma, and help-seeking attitudes for men from diverse backgrounds. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 58(3), Jul 2011, 368-382