This year the team at Regional Men’s Health is focusing on Cardiovascular Awareness and encouraging blokes in Regional WA to have a think about their “Pump & Pipes”.

It’s no surprise that when we combine disease associated with the heart (pump) and blood vessels (pipes) it’s our biggest killer, largest health problem, and places a great burden on our economy and health system. This of course is without even considering the issues around grief, loss of function and care requirements that can also impact individuals and families.

SOME STATISTICS:
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the major cause of death in our country. It kills one Aussie every 12 minutes, which equates to just over 45,000 deaths (2015). It affects one in six of us (4.2 million) and was the main cause for 480,548 hospitalisations and a contributing factor in a further 680,000 in a single year (Heart Foundation Aust).

WHY PUMP & PIPES?
If you think about a pump moving water through a series of pipes, over time sediment can slowly build up and slow the flow of water or even cause a blockage. Most blokes would understand this would result in the pump having to work harder which can cause it to eventually fail or blow a hose.
This is no different to (coronary heart disease) which occurs through the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) in the arteries that feed the heart. Narrowing reduces the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart and if this becomes too narrow it can cause angina (pain/discomfort in chest) or if a blood clot causes a complete block then this can cause a Heart Attack. This is similar to when a clot occurs in blood vessels to the brain causing a Stroke.

Factors that contribute to CVD include family history (which we can’t change) but some of the other risks we can manage by making healthy lifestyle choices:

  • maintain a healthy diet;
  • do regular exercise;
  • reduce our alcohol intake (take a couple of days off a week);
  • monitor our body weight;
  • don’t smoke;
  • reduce our salt intake; and
  • look after our mental health & wellbeing.

It’s important we acknowledge that a lot of CVD is preventable but it’s essential that we understand our individual risk factors that may impact on us developing diseases associated with our heart and blood vessels. The onset of other health issues such as diabetes, obesity, poor health, even erectile dysfunction can be an indicator that our pump and pipes could be under pressure.
So just remember like any good piece of machinery, there are some basic Operating Tips to keep things running at optimal performance!

Gauge your guts
Move more
Regulate your risks
Make a service visit…talk with your GP

Terry and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Things that we cannot control are our biggest distressors, in agriculture it is mostly weather issues followed by a multitude of other factors such as commodity prices, machinery breakdowns (how long is a bit of string!)  

This year every area of the Wheatbelt (from Northampton to Southern Cross to Esperance and in between) has had different rain events and the crops and pastures are at different stages of germination and growth. We must remind ourselves that it is winter and we are in July. These challenging starts to the season affect the whole community (farmers, people involved in agribusiness and those in the agri-link industries like the mechanics, the mitre 10 store).  Everybody feels the pain.

No one can change what happens with the weather, all we can do is manage our programs and control our business as best we can which importantly includes looking after ourselves and each other (our mates and neighbours).

Remaining connected is one way of doing this.  So, what does this mean?  Rural communities have an innate capacity to reach out and organize and participate in many bottoms up activities.  RMHI has been attending a lot of these events including, breakfasts, sundowners and many other gatherings which allow the communities to have a conversation about where they are at individually and as a collective.  There is less and less of us living in regional areas, add this to the nature of modern farming as well as a challenging season and isolation becomes more prevalent. Staying connected is important and something we must actively work on.

As blokes, we have a propensity to self-medicate.  A lot of people think that is done by sex, drugs and rock & roll however in the work we do its mostly blokes spending more time in their cave, working harder, longer, and talking less (some ladies might find that hard to believe).  It is important that we start to talk about some of the pain and distress that as blokes we tend to suffer alone.

We describe “primary care” as what can we do to look after ourselves and others, invariably it is about connection. Some simple things we can do:

  • Talk to a Mate – realize that we are not alone.
  • Talk to whoever needs to be informed about our situation (family, financiers, advisors).
  • Keep an eye on others – drop into a neighbour and have a chat and a coffee. Take the time to ask someone “are you okay?”
  • Slow the pace of our life a little, join a group that fits in with our passions and interests. It will make a difference.
  • Maintain our sense of humour, laugh at ourselves and with others.

Australians are well known for their larrikinism and humour, Edward DE Bono one of the world’s foremost thinkers called humour “a key lubricant for life” and oftened referred to humour as “social glue and the best anti despair device we have”. I think he is right on the money, when we lose our sense of humour we are buggered.

Owen and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

The time has come to re-evaluate the way we approach suicide awareness and prevention! This is the challenge issued in a recent paper delivered by the Australian Institute of Male Health Studies and Western Sydney University. Renowned advocates for Men’s Health Dr John Ashfield, Professor John Macdonald and Anthony Smith propose that a significant paradigm shift is needed in order to realise a more effective national suicide prevention strategy. They argue that a ‘situational approach’ is required, one that acknowledges the more predominant association of situational distress with suicide, as opposed to the current focus on mental illness. This is precisely what we advocate at RMHI.

None of us are immune to the feelings associated with being overwhelmed and challenged by specific events in our lives. These normal life ‘situations’ such as bereavement or relationship breakdown can impact greatly on our mental and emotional wellbeing. It is at these times, when we are able to draw on our innate resilience as human beings, and to see the best in others when we connect with them for support. The concern is that too often the distress we feel in certain situations aligns with symptoms that are often used to identify a mental illness such as depression. There is no doubt that depression can be a debilitating illness with associations for increased risk of suicide but it has gone from being a condition of relative obscurity to an apparent major social dilemma. The authors take this a step further and argue that ‘the current mental health narrative has been allowed to encircle, medicalise and redefine as pathological many of our common human experiences’ (Ashfield, Macdonald and Smith).

The paper’s central argument is that when it comes to suicide prevention most initiatives are preoccupied with the identification of mental illness. Instead, we need to be considering all forms of life stressors and the associated experience of distress which doesn’t necessarily embody a diagnosable mental illness but can result in suicidal behaviour. They argue that many suicides are connected to situational distress often involving issues such as unemployment, financial problems and conflict, the signs of which may be missed if we adhere to a purely mental illness agenda. We need to be looking at situational distress and how it influences the individual’s perspective.

As long as the suicide focus remains mostly on mental illness people will continue to view this problem as that of a professional’s domain. Whilst tertiary services are very important their focus is on people with high intensity mental health difficulties and the associated risk issues. At RMHI we strongly support the shift to a more situational approach to suicide awareness because it promotes development of initiatives that advocate capacity building in individuals and their communities, early intervention and a primary care focus, that is ordinary people looking out for each other.

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Listening is a vital part of communication and often we may be accused of not listening. While hearing is an involuntary, physical act, listening requires much more. Basically it is hearing and combining psychological involvement with the person who is talking. True listening requires concentration and energy, setting aside our own thoughts and agendas and also not making judgements or evaluations.

Effective listening involves the following:-

  1. VERBAL MESSAGERS – attention to the words used
  2. PARAVERBAL MESSAGERS- attention to how they are said
  3. NONVERBAL MESSAGES-the body language of the speaker.

Some basic principles for effective listening that will help the speaker feel listened to:

  • Stop talking - don’t talk, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Men in particular are fixers, we want to jump in with our best solutions when all that is wanted is for us to just listen.
  • Prepare to listen - clearing your mind of all the other thoughts that can easily distract you helps to concentrate on the speaker.
  • Encourage the speaker - nodding, maintaining eye contact (without staring) or words helps the speaker to feel at ease and encourages them to continue and shows you are interested.
  • Focus - remove distractions like TV or other noises. A relaxed environment will help.
  • Empathise - be open minded. Let go of preconceived ideas which helps to empathise with the speaker. Acknowledge a different point of view using statements like “I can understand how you may feel that way but this is how I feel about ……”
  • Patience - allow the speaker to formulate what it is they want to say. A pause of any length doesn’t mean the speaker has finished. Sometimes they may be having difficulty expressing their thoughts. Let them continue in their own time without interrupting.
  • Avoid prejudice - it can be easy to become irritated by the persons mannerisms like stuttering, accent, constant fidgeting or pacing while talking. Everyone has a different way of speaking. Concentrate on what is being said and try to ignore the style of delivery.
  • Be reflective – re-stating the speaker’s words into your own words seeks to clarify what was said and also shows you are listening and are interested. Reflecting how they may be feeling also does the same ie. “I can see you are frustrated about………” Summarizing the conversation in your own words.
  • Watch for the non-verbals - noticing inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal messages. Body language can reveal more than words, you may be listening to someone articulating that all is well but his body language of gritted teeth or tears welling in his eyes tells a different story.

When people talk, listen completely. Sometimes just listening effectively is what is required without jumping in to solve a problem.

Tim and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Last week my 8 year old son participated in his first school swimming carnival, and ended up winning his first ever medal for “champion boy” in his age. Unfortunately I was away on a work trip, and of course when I spoke to the family that evening my son was the first on the end of the phone to tell me proudly of his achievement (he doubted himself and never expected to win). This recognition for effort has been amazing for his confidence and I have even noticed a positive change in his motivation towards other extra-curricular activities that had previously challenged his confidence.

A field known as “positive psychology” (focusing on one’s strengths) has come up with findings that this aids in increasing wisdom, satisfaction and a sense of purpose. It’s common sense really, how good do we feel when someone tells us we have done a good job?

There are three main areas where we can have a direct influence and use some “positive psychology” that is; in our family lives, in and around our working lives, in our community groups (sport clubs, rotary/men’s shed, church groups).

To do this effectively we have to always maintain our own good mental health and wellbeing and a definition which encapsulates this is summarised by the World Health Organisation (2007) - “a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

The interesting thing is that it’s almost a social and personal expectation to continually commit ourselves to our family, working, and community lives, and rightly so. These are all important areas and putting time and effort in gives us satisfaction.

Getting the balance right however between these three commitments, is tough, especially when “expectations” are not understood. In the work we do we come across a lot of misunderstanding and distress caused by individuals not communicating what their expectations are. For example a husband and wife discussing personal vs relationship expectations, a parent and teenager discussing boundaries, a boss and staff member discussing working conditions/priorities, and/or a footy coach discussing positions/roles within his team.

High expectations can be positive, it can help us grow as individuals and/or as a collective, reach achievements and hit our goals. However, many of us can also take this too far. We can easily become cynical of ourselves and others, especially when it comes to making mistakes. Shaming and blaming doesn’t help! Look for the strengths in others and yourself and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

Terry and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au