Men’s Health Week 2020 - Restoring the Balance

Author : Sean Connolly, Health Promotion Officer

Men’s Health Week 2020 will focus on the theme of Restoring the Balance. This year, more than ever, balance in terms of overall health and wellbeing has impacted many of us. We have literally been forced to isolate, separate and block ourselves off from all aspects of the outside world.

Physical Fitness

In terms of physicality; soccer, GAA grounds, Rugby clubs, etc. were forced to close. A viable outlet and stress reliever can be found in social interaction, camaraderie, brotherhood and movement. All of these aspects can be found in such clubs. What can be done, how do you maintain these ties or improve your health, “alone”?


Emotional Wellbeing

Family ties for example have been impacted for men who share custody of a child with their partner. In many cases, men have had to accept that for their own safety and that of their child that they had to limit or completely shut off physical contact with them, a simple thing but such powerful interaction as a hug, a kiss goodbye….gone! Technology has played a vital role, through Skype for example, that they can interact with one another. It offers some degree of relief but it is limited. What can be done when the call ends? How can the feeling of lost connection be managed?



Due to isolation some men are unable to cope. They feel the need to interact as they would on the job such as construction workers. It is not easy to manage especially for the older workforce who would not be readily up to speed with technology. Another burden which can remove further hope is the fact that construction workers and workers across all industries have been let go and made unemployed. Unemployment is a hard pill to swallow and can and has pushed many over the edge!

All of the above has led to many negative effects on men and mens health in general, therefore the balance and structure that men had to support themselves has been knocked and deconstructed. Negative coping mechanisms form as well unhealthy habits. These factors can lead to a serious deterioration and decline in positive aspects of their lives which brings more darkness into what once was a life full of light and a weight which now cannot be lifted.

Due to limited physical activity/exercise, lack of social interaction, disconnection with family and job loss the issue of increased alcohol consumption, self-harm and suicide is rising unnecessarily. The bullet points below are not COVID related which leads to the conclusion that these figure can become worse without proper care:

• One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol.
• Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Irish men aged 15 to 24.
• Alcohol is a factor in more than half of completed suicides in Ireland and over one third of episodes of deliberate self-harm.

We need to be mindful that even before this pandemic, issues relating to physical and emotional health have been impacting men long before and will unfortunately continue to do so after.
No matter how difficult or hopeless a man may feel there is strength that can be sourced, there are questions that can be answered and above all else there is hope!



Inhibitors and guidelines

We now live in an age that does encourage and promote diversity more so than we did in the past, work is still required and progression has to be and is being made. Unfortunately some forms of stigma have stayed with some of the male population and their perception as to how they need to appear. The age old concept that they have to appear strong, emotionless, show no sign of weakness, that they can do it on their own!

A sign of true strength is listening to your inner truth. We all have that inner dialogue that will playout both positive and negative aspects in our mind. Do not block out the negative, notice it, accept that it is there but in no way shape of form do you need to embrace it and allow it to control you.
Listen to your inner truth, the one that recognises that feeling of self-love and staying in the moment. To love yourself fully enables you to love everything that is around you. This is when the darkness will give way to the light. Stay present and do not catastrophize over what may come, to dwell in future means you cannot live in the moment. Be sure to fully appreciate who you are and what you can be grateful for, yes, you do have things to be grateful for no matter how insignificant it may seem, if it serves you in a positive way then it is not insignificant.

Once you establish a positive foundation you can begin to embrace so called fear, you can learn and you can grow.
Cannot work out with the team anymore? Set up a group meeting, train together!
Cannot physically connect or touch loved ones? Continue to embrace technology, call them, text them. All of this is temporary, remember that!
Need that drink? No, you don’t! Or at least not in such volume. Go for bottles instead of pints. Do not “top up” drinks, refill when ready and there’s no last orders at home so there is no rush!

Need to talk? Great! Recognise this and know that there is a wealth of services out there that are completely confidential and offer professional support. Does your company have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)? Can you check-in with a bro/mate/friend? Bro check-ins can be done once a week and it’s as simple as texting a friend by saying: “Hey bro, how are you?”, it is actually that easy!

Follow the HOW acronym:
H – Honesty with yourself to recognise what the issue may be through inner truth
O – Open mind to new ideas, strategies and coping mechanisms
W – Willing to learn and embrace your journey

You can now embrace that fear, learn and ultimately grow!