Men’s Health Week: If you need support, do you know where to look?

Thursday, 6 June 2024

I stared down at the phone in my hand, nerves sending electricity through my body. I knew what I had to do. I knew that it was the right thing to do, so why did it feel so difficult? I took a deep breath, then another, and began typing out the words. 

“Hey boss, sorry about the inconvenience as this is the first time I’ve ever had to do this. Something big has just happened in my life that’s thrown me for a loop. I need to take a mental health day to make heads or tails of the situation. You’ll see me at work first thing tomorrow.” 

This was true, something big had happened to me. I couldn’t think straight. I’d had what had felt like five collective hours of sleep over the past three days. I couldn’t ignore this; I didn’t feel comfortable even driving my car, let alone travelling to-and-from work with eight hours of concentration and collaboration in between. I needed to give myself some space to breathe, to decompress. But looking down at the message I had typed, I felt dirty. Like I was cheating or something. 

Plenty of people have bad days. Everyone still has to go to work, was running through my mind on repeat, adding to the already present stress I was feeling. 

Message sent. A deep breath enters then exits my body. I lay the phone flat on the desk gently, as if the extra care I was giving it would somehow make a difference to my current situation, and took a walk. Three minutes, one foot after the other. Through the kitchen, dining room, living room, downstairs, laundry room, front door, and then in reverse. Three minutes of trying to calm myself down to no avail. 

I returned, and hesitantly picked up the phone again. My eyes crept up towards the time in the top left corner. 

Maybe if I rush, I can still make it to work on time, I defeatedly thought to myself. 

Then I read the response. 

“Don’t apologise at all. Your mental health is what’s most important and you need to prioritise that. I hope you’re doing okay and reach out if you need anything.” 

Relief flooded my body, and I released the breath I had been holding without realising it. 

This is an experience I still reflect on to this day, and every time my mind goes back there, I’m left with one lingering question. Why was that so hard for me to do? 

Men’s Health Week 

From June 10th to June 16th is 2024 International Men’s Health Week, and it’s celebrating its 30th anniversary with the important theme of Men’s Health Checks. This theme works to actively fight against the stigma in society of men disregarding the signs and symptoms of their physical and mental health being put in jeopardy. 

As a man, I can speak towards the truth of this stigma. This unconscious instinct to ignore or reject anything that might be perceived as being weak or unassertive. We feel the need to fulfill a role, and taking stock of your health and prioritising it can feel wrong or a waste of productivity.  

In solidarity of Men’s Health Week 2024, I’ll be using my own personal experience to explain why these stigmas are only holding us back. There’s significant strength and efficiency in being aware of and utilising the resources available to benefit your health. 

Where I went wrong 

Thinking back to my experience in taking my first ever mental health day, the benefit of hindsight makes me seem foolish. I now hold a hand against my head and roll my eyes thinking, of course your boss wants you to prioritise your mental health.  

The following day when I came into work, my boss reached out to me, checking up on me and made sure that I was aware of the EPIC EAP (Employment Assistance Program.) It’s a program that entitles all EPIC staff members and their immediate family members to four free and confidential sessions with a health professional matched to me and my needs. It’s similar to what several businesses have in place to support their employees in times of crisis. 

When I got told this, I took a moment to stop and reflect on the situation. I hadn’t even thought to check if we had any support systems like that in place. In fact, I had been almost certain that I would be upsetting my boss if I told them I was doing exactly what they would have wanted me to do. 

That’s when it dawned on me, the power of the unconscious harmful stigmas surrounding masculinity, and how important it is to be raising awareness to combat them. This is why I find this year’s theme for Men’s Health Week so important. Men’s Health Checks. 

If you need support, where do you look? 

Guys, take an honest inventory of your physical and mental health. Are you fully aware of all the tools to help you should anything be wrong? 

This goes beyond the workplace. Do you know the number for Men’s Line Australia? Dialling 1300 789 978 can get you a free telephone and online counselling service offering support for men in Australia at any time. 

Or Beyond Blue, where you get access to a free mental health coach. Go to their website to anonymously chat online with a welcoming peer support community – sharing and learning from people who know what you’re going through.  

The K10 is a very simple two-minute online test that checks for the telltale signs of depression and anxiety. It collects your answers, unpacks them, and determines the level of support you need as well as providing resources for you to utilise. 

At EPIC Assist, once you engage with us you can access our free mental health consultancy. Our expert mental health consultants can assist in developing strategies to manage your mental health during both the job seeking and employment process. 

There are resources out there to ensure we’re keeping our physical and mental health as chief priorities. And they’re resources that we all have access to!  

Why it’s a big deal 

Mental health among men is still a crisis, with approximately one in eight experiencing depression and one in five experiencing anxiety some point. Around 75% of Australian suicides identify as male. That’s why it remains important that we’re vigilant when looking for the signs and symptoms of these conditions to ensure they’re recognised and addressed as soon as possible. 

This Men’s Health Week, I challenge everyone reading to not only know how you’re travelling, but also where to go and what you can use when times get rough.  

Understand that it’s okay to have a strategy in place for when times get rough, and that no one is holding it against you if you’re taking time to prioritise yourself. 

Treat your mental health like it matters. Because it does. 

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