Disclaimer: Please note that "men" in this article refers to anyone who identifies as a man.
National Men's Health Week is the week leading up to Father's Day, including Father's Day. This year, the week will be celebrated from June 12-18, 2023. In honor of the week, the US Congress also created the Men's Health Awareness And Improvement Act in 2021 to offer and promote men's health initiatives throughout the United States. During this week and throughout the year, learn how you can support your mental and physical health or that of the men in your life.
What Is National Men's Health Week?
National Men's Health Week is a week developed by the Men's Health Month organization to spread awareness of men's health, stigmas faced in treatment, health-related masculinity stereotypes, prostate cancer, and other struggles that men may face. According to The Men’s Health Network, women are 100% more likely to get preventative care services and, on average, live five years longer than men. Men also have higher rates of heart disease, injuries, cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and more.
The hope is that by spreading awareness of preventable health consequences, we can encourage men and boys to pursue early detection and treatment and prevent health-related challenges and conditions among men and boys before they occur.
They also encourage healthcare providers, social workers, therapists, organizations, and non-profits around the globe to celebrate this week by offering more opportunities for men to sign up for care or find support in disease prevention. Organizations can become a partner through the site.
How To Celebrate National Men's Health Week
As an individual, you might celebrate Men's Health Week by advocating for the health of men, educating yourself on common conditions that impact men and individuals assigned males at birth (AMAB), and learning more about the stigmas, stereotypes, and conditions men can face. Throughout the year, Men's Health Month may also post activities and events on its website for those interested in attending.
Ways To Support Men In Your Life
As Congressman Bill Richardson said in 1994, “Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.” If you do not identify as a man or want to support other men in your life, there are a few ways you might do so during the month of June and throughout the year.
Advocate For Their Mental Health
Studies show that men face significant mental health stigmas in the US that may lead to them reaching out for support less often than other genders. For example, the study notes that men have the highest suicide rate of any gender, the highest rate of death by substance use, and experience high rates of depression. Symptoms of mental health conditions in men can look different than those in other genders, possibly due to stigma around showing emotion. With these statistics, advocating for male mental health can be beneficial.
If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
To advocate for men's mental health in your life, consider showing up for men's health awareness events, talking about mental health with those you care about, and educating yourself on how mental health can impact men. Mental health is a form of health that can be as essential as physical health. For example, many researchers have found that prolonged stress can cause physical illness, as can trauma and other common mental health concerns.
Challenge Stigmas About Men
If you hear stigmas, myths, or stereotypes about men throughout your life, consider challenging these claims and backing them up with facts. For example, you might hear phrases such as "men don't cry" or "talking to a therapist is for women." These statements may cause specific individuals to hesitate to seek help out of fear of social rejection or labeling. When you hear these statements and others, consider combatting them with the following statistics:
- Suppressing emotions can be harmful to mental and physical well-being
- Over six million men experience depression each year
- There are many effective treatments for mental health conditions for men
- Forbes considers reaching out for help an act of bravery
- The United Nations lists gender stereotypes as harmful to physical and mental health, well-being, relationships, and other areas of life
Men may also partake in gender stereotypes against themselves. In these cases, it can be beneficial to stand up to other men and help your friends and family feel safe to come to you about their emotions or health concerns.
Offer Love And Emotional Support
Although some men may struggle to be emotionally open or feel safe expressing vulnerable love with their partners, friends, family, and supporters, you may be able to help them by showing this type of love to them as much as possible. If they are your partner, consider cuddling with them, holding them in your arms, or giving them hugs. You might also tell them that you are there for them if they ever feel scared, confused, shameful, or unloved.
For others in your life, you can offer platonic support by allowing them to come to you for emotional support or to talk to you about topics they might otherwise feel ashamed about. If you're a man, let your male friends know how mental health impacts you, and try to be open about your emotions to provide a safe space for them to do so.
Check In With Them
Check in with men in your life as much as possible. You might ask the following questions:
- How are you feeling today?
- Is there anything I could do to make you feel heard?
- How can I support you when you're stressed?
- What makes you feel loved?
- When you're feeling down, how do you like to unwind?
- What makes you feel closest to me?
- Is there any way I can help you feel safer opening up to me?
- Have you recently had a checkup?
- Have you ever met with a counselor?
Checking in regularly might show someone you care about their feelings and overall health. Additionally, if they are struggling with something and haven't opened up about it yet, it could allow them to admit to their struggle, which could be the first step in receiving support.
How To Celebrate This Week As A Man
You may still celebrate National Men's Health Week if you are a man. There are a few ways you can be proactive about your health in June and every month of the year.
Get A Checkup To Prevent Disease
Consider getting a physical checkup every six months or yearly to ensure you are healthy and can tackle preventable health problems through early detection. A doctor can provide a quick mental health screening as well. Be honest about your responses. Doctors are not there to judge you and can offer you resources to check out on your own time.
Additionally, if something is going on with your body, a doctor may be able to catch it before it becomes a health risk. You might also consider getting a prostate check every three to five years, which many medical organizations recommend to encourage early detection of cancer symptoms. Men may also be susceptible to heart disease, cardiac events, and certain mental health issues.
Doctors can also recommend a healthy diet, sleep hygiene tips, lifestyle changes, and ways to prevent future symptoms.
Attend An Event
Check with the Men's Health Month organization to see if any men's health week activities or events are occurring in June. You can also wear blue, a suggestion by the organization. Depending on your city and year, other events could be available in your area. Specific organizations might also offer online webinars or Zoom groups. Do an online search to find out more.
As Father's Day is the last day of Men's Health Week, you can also celebrate the week by spending time with your children, if you have any. If you have sons, talk to them about the importance of checking your mental and physical health and being open about emotions.
See A Counselor
You may also benefit from meeting with a counselor. Many men might feel uncertain about how a therapy session might go, but counselors are often trained to work with those who feel uncomfortable opening up or discussing emotions. You can also choose to meet with a male counselor if it feels most comfortable to you.
For men who are busy, face barriers to in-person care, or want a more unidentified form of treatment, consider online therapy. Through an online platform, you may be able to attend sessions through a nickname instead of your real name, and you can choose between video, phone, or live chat sessions with your licensed counselor. Additionally, studies show that men find online therapy especially effective due to its more discreet nature.
If you're interested in reaching out for help, consider a platform like BetterHelp, which offers over 30,000 therapists and the option to choose the preferred gender of your therapist.
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