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Johnson: ‘Movember’: Promoting Men’s Health Issues

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It is known that men do not routinely ask each other “how is your mental health?” at the barbershop or “when is the last time you had a checkup?” while socializing. However, these types of supportive questions should be asked because men face unique health concerns that need attention. It is “Movember” and we are working to spread awareness.  “Movember” promotes men’s health with a focus on mental health, suicide prevention, testicular cancer and prostate cancer.

Men are encouraged to have a support group of peers whom they can rely on if they need to discuss mental or physical health concerns. Oftentimes, men shy away from having conversations about their mental health and physical health because of the stigma attached to particular conditions (i.e. cancer, diabetes, bipolar disorder, etc.).

Some men also face barriers accessing proper treatment. It’s vitally important for men to have a primary care provider for annual check-ups and other needs as they occur. It is also necessary to know that it is helpful to have a mental health therapist as well.

Mental health and physical health work together for your overall well-being and help you to sustain relationships and a healthy self-confidence. Mental health affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  There is a greater risk of your physical health being poor if you ignore your mental health or mental health problems.

Let’s talk more about men’s physical health with Coretta Collins, a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in hematology and oncology.

CMJ: Why is it important for men to have health screenings?

CC: “Simply put, prevention is better than treatment and early intervention is better than late intervention. If you can keep something from happening or find out what is wrong early on you tend to have better outcomes. Having routine health maintenance can help ensure that men are maintaining wellness. It can also assist in helping to identify changes that may need to happen in an effort to achieve wellness.”

CMJ: Will you explain prostate and testicular cancer? What are some signs and symptoms? 

CC: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (excluding skin cancer) and it is often slow growing. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases as you age. Early prostate cancer does not usually have symptoms but can be detected early through screening. Symptoms may include trouble urinating, blood in urine or semen, trouble getting an erection, weakness in the legs and feet, loss of bowel or bladder function or pain in back, hips or other areas of bone pain.

“Testicular cancer is cancer of the testes, usually one testicle. It is a rare cancer that tends to occur in younger men. Symptoms include a lump or swelling in the testicle and breast growth or soreness. Late symptoms include low back pain, headaches, belly pain and shortness of breath.”

CMJ: When should men have prostate and testicular screenings? 

CC: “Screening recommendations for prostate cancer vary and begin with a discussion with the primary care provider who should guide you appropriately. The American Cancer Society guidelines state that screening should begin at age 50 for men who are at average risk, at age 45 for men at high risk developing prostate cancer including African American men who have a father or brother diagnosed younger than 65 years old and at age 40 for men at even higher risk. There is no screening test for testicular cancer.  Most are identified by self-exam.”

CMJ: How do you engage men in taking care of their mental and physical health?

CC: “I start by engaging them in open conversation about their mental and physical health. I aim to help them understand that mental and physical health are closely related.  I often bring it up first which usually breaks the ice. From there we are able to come up with a plan for their needs. I am also sure to follow up at subsequent appointments.”

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, 75 percent of people that die by suicide are male. Early detection of mental health problems can help reduce suicide. Therapy is a supportive outlet to help reduce depression symptoms which is a common illness people have that commit suicide. It’s important for therapists to educate their clients about their mental health conditions and to provide adequate treatment.

Many men grow a mustache or beard during November in support of “Movember’s” men’s health awareness initiatives. Join in and support and spread awareness but most importantly be sure to have your health concerns addressed. This includes mental and physical.

Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. Strive Counseling Services is a private practice located in downtown Birmingham. Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit Strive Counseling Services—http://www.strivebhm.com