Last month was “Dry July”, which gave us a chance to focus on ourselves, our drinking habits and the importance of a healthy balanced lifestyle. Speaking with a group of blokes about this, I asked them to have a think about their attitudes towards drinking which one bloke replied “I just love the taste”. This is a fair enough response, and it’s also the same problem I have with my kids, who love ice cream and chocolate, but trying to teach them that you don’t have it every day takes effort.

The fact that going alcohol free for a month is seen as a challenge for many, highlights just how prevalent alcohol use is in Australia. Alcohol is our most widely used and most accepted drug, and over time it has formed part of our Aussie culture and identity. Its use and associations are many, including: advertising, sport, social occasions, celebrations and within the work place culture. Peer pressure does not only happen to teenagers! Think of the last time you were encouraged to have a drink when you were not planning to? As Joe E. Lewis once quoted “I distrust camels, and anyone else who can go a week without a drink.” There seems to be an underlying normalisation, glamorisation and justification for drinking which is also present in pop-culture, movies (The Hangover), social media (my “friend” who posts it’s beer o’clock).

Now I am not saying I’m a shining light leading by example when it comes to abstaining from having a drink, my arm is often twisted a bit too easy. We should all take the chance to have a think about our own individual drinking habits, behaviours and attitudes:-

  • What example do I set when I drink?
  • How often/how much am I drinking?
  • Is it to relax, cope or deal with stress?
  • Is it habitual or become a dependency?

For those who do enjoy a night out, here are a few points to help reduce unhealthy drinking behaviours:

  • What mood/state of mind am I in before I drink? Alcohol is a depressant, but can also enhance negative behaviours eg. anger/aggression, reckless risk taking;
  • What sort of situation/crowd am I drinking with? Young people, personal safety eg. am I with people I know and trust in a safe environment or am I out with randoms?
  • Self regulation - know your limits and plan ahead. Designated driver, take a swag, don’t risk it!
  • Harm minimisation. Have a decent meal, serve finger food, alcohol dehydrates (drink water);
  • Alcohol Free days. 2-3 days per week will show two benefits 1. I can go without a drink. 2. Has regenerative effects on the liver (health benefits).

During this year’s seemingly endless election outcome result I saw this creative post showing a picture of our politicians with the caption “No matter who wins they will not fix your life, better plan on doing it yourself”. Like a lot of things in life and especially alcohol we can’t expect governments and multimillion dollar ad campaigns to reduce the risk, control our use and fix alcohol related problems. Moderation, awareness, responsibility and balance is the key to our alcohol use.

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


   

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative is a state-wide program empowering men and communities to take responsibility for their wellbeing and health.

This program’s primary role is community education on men’s holistic wellbeing. This is delivered in three ways:

  1. Warrior Education Sessions;
  2. Fast Track Pit Stop;
  3. Advocacy.

The RMHI emphasis is on men’s holistic wellbeing and health, which means the whole person and understanding problems/issues in the context of life. When we consider the individual we believe we are more than just physical and mental beings, the often neglected element is our “social/spiritual” wellbeing. We promote the requirement that it is important to know and understand the story behind our identity and what it is that makes us an individual.

Modern Western Medicine is too often about:

  • Diagnosing ills;
  • Prescribing pills; and
  • Sending bills 
    The “human factor” can get lost in the medical mix.

It has been said to me in the past that the definition of a good accountant is, “they get to know the people in the business”; this is no different to the functioning of a good doctor or specialist. In the work we do this is obvious, especially in the case of both the diagnosis and marketing of mental health issues.

We talk about “situational distress”, which is the space between being well and being diagnosed with a mental illness. Quite often we fail to realize that most mental illnesses start from situations that are unresolved in our lives. Sometimes we have to allow people, in particular blokes, to be in this space which is about people having a “normal reaction to an abnormal event”.

Often men know the issues but we don’t want to show ourselves as the “only one” with a problem. Men in particular struggle because we think we are failing, rather than realizing we are battling issues beyond our making and/or control. A lot of the time it is about giving blokes permission and pointing blokes in the right direction to seek the best medical advice the can.

Blokes are warriors and that winning and macho attitude is very prevalent which often inhibits help seeking behaviour and can contribute to delays in men getting to the doctors. In regional areas the distance factor and lack of services also plays a role.

Our slogan “…before it all gets too much…Talk to a Mate!!” is the basis of all our initiatives. Mateship, empathy and appropriate use of humour is the key to connectedness in our programs and presentations. We don’t do health assessment but we do health awareness, which is quite often the missing link.

For more information you can contact The Regional Men’s Health Initiative.

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


   

Supporting men to become empowered and take responsibility for their wellbeing and health; that’s our core focus at the Regional Men’s Health Initiative. We do this in light of the adverse statistics that represent men’s health in general and the notion that for a large proportion of men developing their ‘health knowledge’ is not seen as a priority. This fits with men having a more functional view of their health i.e. not seeking help until we are virtually physically impaired by the problem. We often challenge men on these points, but what does it really mean as a bloke to take responsibility for your wellbeing and health?

As blokes we take responsibility and make a lot of informed decisions throughout our lives, on a variety of things such as family, work and social issues. Why should decisions about our wellbeing and health be any different?

Too many blokes are running into trouble because we keep avoiding and putting off looking after our wellbeing and health. Just being a passive participant is not good enough, we need to be the one in the driver’s seat in all areas of our health be it physical, mental or social/ spiritual.

Taking responsibility for our wellbeing and health means becoming an active and informed healthcare consumer. It means scheduling regular service visits with our doctor and being aware of issues that affect us at certain stages of our lives, such as the potential for prostate problems as we get older. We also need to consider issues that could be common in our families (hereditary) and discuss this with the doctor in view of our lifestyle choices. It’s a bit of a generalisation but how many of us guys rely on our wives or partners for our health when it comes to our diet i.e. what food is in the house and what we eat for dinner.

Our key message “before at all gets too much, talk to a mate…” requires us to take some responsibility in that it’s important we identify who our mates are so that when the s..t hits the fan, and it does happen, we have a strategy/ plan in place to address things.

While taking charge is important it doesn’t mean you have to go it alone, we all need help sometimes. From a community educator and support worker perspective this often means my role involves walking beside someone helping to establish relevant pathways of support. It could also be simply listening to and validating people’s issues and the emotions they associate with them. We see it as, walking beside the ute with the window down but not hopping in - it’s your bus, you are the one in the driver’s seat!

Remember that it’s not your wife’s, mate’s or doctor’s health and wellbeing, it’s yours. Good health and wellbeing can only happen if and when we as blokes take responsibility!


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


   

There are those extra busy times on the farm like the coming seeding season where it’s all go. It may mean longer than normal hours and possible sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep not only reduces our ability to perform work effectively, it also reduces our ability to work safely.

Some have regarded sleep as a useless waste of time with no purpose - NOT TRUE.
Science and medicine are discovering more and more about the role of sleep, especially deep sleep, and its influence on our mental and physical wellbeing and health.

How much sleep do we really need? Eight hours seems to be the standard amount of sleep recommended at night but this is not true for everyone:

  • Infants and toddlers need most - 9 to 10 hours at night plus day naps;
  • School age including teenagers - do best with 9 to 11 hours at night;
  • Most adults - 7 to 8 hours a night;
  • Older adults need the same as younger adults but sleep lighter and for shorter periods than younger adults.

Some people just need fewer hours of six or less a night without ill effects. The need for less or even more sleep can run in families (suggesting a genetic basis).

What are the effects of lack of sleep? While we’re sleeping, our body is busy tending to our physical and mental health and getting us ready for another day. Lack of sleep leads into:-

  • Mood swings;
  • Drowsiness and irritability during the day;
  • Impaired judgement and reaction time;
  • Poor concentration, hinders memory, attention;
  • Poor physical coordination - dangerous accidents;
  • High blood pressure, heart disease;
  • Depression.

Regularly sleeping less than 5 hours is associated with poor physical health. There is a debate whether poor health causes lost sleep or lost sleep results in poor health?

Sleep may be more difficult to come by as we age and this can be traced to treatable health issues that cause interrupted sleep. Some factors that could cause sleep difficulties:-

  • Sleep disorders - sleep-apnoea, restless leg/arm syndrome, leg cramps;
  • Pain from conditions like arthritis, heartburn, back pain, headaches;
  • A frequent need to urinate;
  • Illness - depression, coughing, shortness of breath;
  • Medications - some medications can disrupt sleep;
  • Menopause - hot flushes, night sweats.

Some helpful tips for getting a good night’s sleep are:-

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, this synchronizes our body clock;
  • Aim for daily exercise before evenings;
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol;
  • Relax before bed i.e. warm shower/bed or reading;
  • Keep bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature;
  • Use bedroom/bed only for sleeping or intimacy - not as a lounge room for watching TV, studying i.e. the bed is associated with sleeping;
  • Follow medication advices.

As a general rule, if we can’t sleep, we shouldn’t lie in bed. Leave the bedroom and do a quiet activity that doesn’t stimulate us.

To help maintain a healthy lifestyle we all need to contemplate “what is an adequate amount of sleep for us personally” and visit our GP for treatment if we are amassing a huge “sleep debt”.

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


   

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative team talk to a lot of blokes, the other side to this is we also do a lot of listening. One comment that comes up, especially from men of the older generation is “I wish I had spent more time with my kids” or maybe “I spent my life busting my guts working, I missed out on a lot of the little things”.

Life can definitely be a double edged sword at times, and I personally have the utmost respect for men who saw their primary role as the breadwinner and gave precedence to their work, with the best interest of their family in mind. The downside to this, of course, was that these men were quite often too busy with work, or away from the family, to be able to commit time at home to do some of the little things that are now considered normal.

My partner did an amazing job giving birth to all three of our children at home (under the supervision of an experienced midwife) and I was actively encouraged to be involved through all stages of the pregnancy and birthing process. My experience, of course, is vastly different to that of men from my grandfather’s era, who were told by the midwife “well you have done your job, we’ll let you know when we need you!”

In today’s society the family structure varies and there are no set rules on who does what. Women have historically been considered the carers and nurturers, but they may also have careers of which some were once considered “men” only professions. The question I have is “are we as open and accepting of men who show both a nurturing and caring side as well as a commitment to his working and professional career”? Is this balance possible?

Spending time with the kids is definitely a priority for many blokes and I believe some of the most enjoyable and rewarding times comes from being in their company. Don’t get me wrong we will all have times when we’re challenged, tested (definitely our patience) and sometimes even question our ability as a father, this is normal. In addition to this we need to be aware of and also manage our work, spend time with our partner and make time to explore our own passions and interests (self-care).

A few tips for father and/or father/mentor figures out there:

  • Don’t be afraid of the everyday tasks when your child is born; changing nappies, bathing, feeding, they’re all important bonding opportunities.
  • As your kids grow get to know them and take an interest in their passions, interest, hopes, dreams and schooling.
  • Talk to your kids, ask them how their day was, tell them about your day, and reading is one of the simplest beneficial things you can do.
  • There is a saying “if we spent twice as much time and half the amount of money on our children we and they would be better off”. Keep it simple, time and presence is the most precious gift.

To those men out there who may carry feelings of regret, guilt or loss about what they missed out on with their children, don’t forget that any guy can be a dad but it takes someone special to be a father. Even if your children are now adults don’t forget every child, no matter what their age, seeks the approval of their father. Tell your kids today that you’re proud of them and you love them.


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