14 June 2022

Social connection 'almost a lost art for men'

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Black and white photo of mens health advocate Sam Parker

Men’s health advocate, Sam Parker. Photo: Supplied.

Fewer males in the Murrumbidgee region visit their GPs for their mental health compared to the national average.

The Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network revealed the statistic ahead of International Men’s Health Week (IMHW), encouraging males in the region to prioritise their health.

Running from 13 to 19 June, IMHW’s goal is to increase awareness of male health issues on a global level and encourage institutions to develop health policies and services that meet the specific needs of men, boys and their families.

This year the week focuses on breaking the five barriers that affect men’s health: hoping it isn’t an issue, taking too long to do something about health, worrying that asking for help is perceived as weakness, trouble talking about health and uncertainty around what information to trust.

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Local men’s health advocate Sam Parker said it was fantastic there was awareness in the community around men’s health.

He heads Wagga’s Grab Life By The Balls charity and hosts The Wagga Coffee & Chin Wag event, which runs every Friday at Meccanico Espresso and Wine.

The initiative is on a mission to make a positive change in men’s health and wellbeing across Australia.

“In every age group, men and boys have worse health outcomes and die younger than women across the board,” Mr Parker said.

“Men’s health is a real issue. We need to keep stepping up and making change not just for men but for our boys and young men coming through.

“Many minority groups are focused on statistics, resources and support, but men are often forgotten.”

Man sitting at the end of a bed holding his head in his hands

Worrying that asking for help is perceived as weakness is one of five main barriers found to prevent men from seeking help for their mental health. Photo: Marcos Calvo.

Mr Parker said mental health and suicide are often almost mentioned as separate notions.

“Suicide is a life crisis … it’s like drowning,” he said.

“You don’t see people putting up their hands because they’re too exhausted.”

Mr Parker encouraged men to keep things simple when trying to improve health and wellbeing.

“It is about finding what works and being able to follow through,” he said.

“Play golf, if you like playing it. If you don’t, come down and have a coffee with us to hang out with a bunch of blokes.”

The local advocate said social connection was “almost a lost art for men” but that it was vital for building support networks to lean on if and when issues arose.

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Mr Parker encouraged those struggling to seek help but understood barriers that affect men’s health sometimes made it easier said than done.

“We try to make our events relaxed, low key and laidback by design to work with the stigma,” he said.

“Even when you do something laidback with a catchy name, there can still be barriers.”

Grab Life By The Balls is hosting two events in Wagga on Friday, 17 June – its usual weekly coffee catch up at Meccanico and one at Thirsty Crow Brewing Co from 6 pm.

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