OPINION: Time to create a male-friendly society

MEN’S health in Australia is not as good as the health of women. 

Across the nation men and boys experience significantly higher rates of suicide, addiction, mental illness, emotional challenges and premature death from preventable illnesses.

Men often get wrongly blamed for their ill health, but it is  not their fault.

 The voices of Australia’s leading experts all agree that one of the key causes of bad health outcomes for males is that we don’t have male-friendly health, welfare, community, legal or education systems in this country.

Women are more familiar with and at ease with these systems than men,  which leads to men lacking basic information on health issues that can sometimes have devastating effects.

We need to work much harder to make these systems more male-friendly and accessible.

We have come a long way over the past 30 years in developing a National Male Health Policy and  some  examples of projects and programs to improve male health.

One of the key areas we now need to improve is developing and maintaining a well-trained, male- friendly workforce in the health, welfare,  human services and education sectors.

Last week in Newcastle we took a major step forward in this direction with the launch of “Engaging Men”, the first national two-day men’s health, well-being and relationships training seminar, hosted by the Men’s Health Forum of NSW.

Workers had  the opportunity to learn new skills, gather  knowledge and network to build stronger relationships  to improve male health.

The program  included training in sexual health issues, setting up men’s sheds, managing depression, suicide prevention, helping dads in distress, supporting men with cancer and working with male victims of intimate partner violence.

We have a large body of research  that shows us  men are concerned about their  well-being and are doing more to improve their emotional and psychological health as well as their physical health.

Many men today are keen to talk with other men in specific men’s programs and in  other man-friendly places where they feel comfortable.

Health promotion for men works when we go out to where men are in the community – it can be that simple.

Australian blokes are rapidly changing away from the old ethos of “if you’ve got a problem, don’t ask for help” to one of being comfortable in seeking out support and information from healthcare workers – when it is delivered in appropriate ways – and discussing their concerns  with their mates.

Men today regard good health as necessary  for living, working and enjoying life, and see beyond the need to just be physically fit and free of disease and illness. 

Men also want to achieve emotional well-being, communicate more effectively with mates and loved ones, and increase their skills in reducing stress in their lives.

Improving male health has a major impact on not only the individual man and boy but also on women, children, the whole community, employers and the economy.

Greg Millan is a men’s health consultant and president of Men’s Health Forum Inc, the peak body in NSW for improving male health.