On International Men’s Day Health Minister Robin Swann has urged men to reach out for help to safeguard their physical and mental health.
The Minister emphasised the need for awareness and early intervention for conditions like prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental ill health. He also stressed the importance of encouraging self-care.
“International Men’s Day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities,” the Minister said.
“And during these exceptional times it is particularly important that we all recognise how important it is that we take care of ourselves and others.
“Whether it is our physical or our mental health, the challenges we face have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Like many other countries around the world, we are seeing worrying figures around mental health, suicide, prostate and testicular cancer among the male population.
“Cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases have been the three leading causes of deaths since 2012, with rates of cancer in Northern Ireland expected to rise by 43% for men by 2026.
“We can all take steps to look after our physical and mental health and to help those who are close to us. If you have a friend, family member or colleague who is struggling with ill health, encourage them to speak to medical professionals or reach out to one of our local mental health organisations,” the Minister said.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride also spoke of the need for self-care, highlighting the benefits of exercise to good physical and mental health.
“It is widely recognised that staying active offers huge health benefits. It protects against many of the biggest health risks like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It makes you feel better and can promote wellbeing and good mental health.
“We’ve all been living through extremely difficult and challenging times and many of us have perhaps neglected our physical and mental health. Please take the time to reach out for help and advice, whatever your concerns.”
Research shows that men are more than three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Minister Swann said it was very important to tackle men’s attitudes towards mental health.
“One of the main barriers to seeking help for mental health problems is stigma. Stigma can significantly worsen someone’s mental health problems, defining them as someone with an illness rather than a person with a meaningful voice and contribution to make.
“We all need to tackle stigma to create a lasting, positive change in people’s attitudes, especially in men, towards mental health and to better inform people on the facts.
“Remember that it is okay not to be okay,” he concluded.
Notes to editors:
- Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect men between the ages of 15 and 49.
- In Northern Ireland over 1,100 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, approximately 276 dying from this disease every year.
- Three times as many people die by suicide here each year than are killed in road traffic collisions.
- An estimated 219,000 people have been directly affected by suicide since 2005 through close association with the deceased.
- Over 70% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services, yet research indicates that most people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of death.
- LifeLine counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to listen and help in confidence. People living in Northern Ireland can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
- You can also contact Samaritans on 116 123. They provide confidential, emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
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