Opinion Column

Shining a light on men’s health

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

We are now more than a week into men around the country ditching their razors for the month. 

 

The Movember Foundation is now at 14 years of age and continues to grow, one greasy soup strainer at a time. 

It’s a great movement that brings men’s health issues to the forefront, for a 30-day stay in the spotlight. My only request is that participants are not just using it as a reason to be lazy when it comes to personal grooming. 

This is one of the few times in the year when men’s health is brought to light before returning to the shadows. 

There is no shortage of causes that can be supported over the course of the month. The official Movember Foundation focuses in on three of the biggest ones: Prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention. 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian males are more likely to develop prostate cancer than any other cancer, with 1 in 7 Canadian men expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. CCS projects 103,100 men to be diagnosed with cancer this year, as compared to 103,200 women, and prostate cancer will account for 20.7 per cent of those diagnoses. For women the leading diagnosis is breast cancer at 25.5 per cent. 

When it comes to testicular cancer, there is a 95 per cent survival rate, but that still means one in 20 men diagnosed with it will die, and it attacks younger men far more often with most between the ages of 15 and 40. As in all cancer related issues, early detection and awareness is of the utmost importance. 

Canadian Mental Health Association calls men’s mental health a silent crisis. According to cmha.ca, the “greatest evidence of male vulnerability is in suicide statistics. Among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male.” 

It’s a damning statistic. 

In January and February we talk a lot about mental health and depression in its own right. We also talk about the high rates of suicide in the LGBTQ community. Absolutely these are all big concerns. But we almost never break it down by gender. I myself was not aware of that gap until I started looking into it this week, and I have had my own battles with depression, as I talked about in a previous column. 

According to the Toronto Men’s Health Network co-chair, and associate editor of the International Journal of Men’s Health, Dr. Don McCreary, “The women’s health movement was very self-directed,” he told CMHA. “Women banded together to work on problems with health delivery. Men don’t want to do that. We have inculcated a culture in our society that men have to be tough, men have to be strong. Our society is very good at punishing gender deviation in men. Weakness is not considered to be masculine.” 

Mental health does not discriminate based on gender, economic status, relationship status, or any other indicator, and affects an increasing number of Canadians. The gender gap is closing on mental health disorders as a whole as a StatsCan Canadian Community Health Survey on Mental Health and Well-being found that 10 per cent of men experienced symptoms of the surveyed mental health disorders and substance dependencies, compared to 11 per cent of women. 

None of this is to say women’s health issues are not important as well. They absolutely are. But until Movember rolled around in 2003, we almost never heard about men’s health issues or discussed them. 

There are many other charities or health issues one can raise awareness or funds for through the movement, even on a more local level as opposed to global initiatives. The shame or stigma that may be attached to any of these health issues needs to end.  

I will admit, I do not participate in growing a cookie duster. It is one of the very few things I share in common with Sidney Crosby — both of us are facially follicly challenged. Despite turning 35 in a couple of weeks, whatever I grew would hardly be noticeable by the end of November, and whatever did sprout would border on creepy. 

If you are growing a ‘stache for Movember, however, use its powers for the common good. Even if you are not raising funds, use it to bring awareness to a men’s health issue.  



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