Health & wellbeing
What can men do to stay healthy and happy in Leeds? Find out in our Men’s Health special.
What is it with men and doctors? “I don’t want to bother them”, “It’ll clear up in a bit” and “It’s nothing serious” are all things we might find ourselves
saying – or hear from the men in our lives. Men’s antipathy to medical treatment doesn’t help the statistics. Men are more likely to die earlier than women – and more men live unhealthier lives than women. It’s not just physical problems (that nagging cough, a dodgy knee, that funny rash); men often ignore their mental health too. There is a huge disparity in the high number of men who die from suicide and the low number of men who seek treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.
There are particular health issues for older men: prostate problems, heart disease and bladder cancer can be of particular concern. Often men choose not to address serious health problems and don’t seek help until it’s too late. What can be done about this situation? There are lots of people in Leeds who are offering support to men in the city. Men’s Health Unlocked is a project that aims to bring all this great work together to help put the focus on men’s health. They even produce a magazine! Over the page, Damian and Hannah outline the work of Men’s Health Unlocked.
I get out of bed. I know I should get washed but I’m too hungry for that.
We commissioned writer Nigel Stone to compose a short story to highlight the issue of Men’s Health.
Nigel’s piece is emotional, raw and gets to the heart of why men so often suppress their problems.
I’ve never needed help before. I’m supposed to be the one troubled folk turn to. I can’t afford to be weak. Besides, the doctor would laugh at me. This is insane, though! How can I lose my door keys when I live in one room? They should be on my bedside table! I ransack the place. No sign of them. I look at the mess I’ve made. I think about the mess I’m in. I go back to bed, broken.
I should get up. I hear the postman! I cross my fingers, hope beyond hope that he walks
past my place. No bad news today, please, Mr. Postman! I can’t pay those final reminders you keep dropping through my letterbox. I hear something fall onto the welcome mat. I steel myself, go to the door I can’t unlock, spot the plain white envelope. I can see red type on the head of the letter through the envelope’s translucent window. My heart sinks, then threatens to burst through my chest. I might not have much left but I want to keep hold of it, including the roof over my head.
I’m hungry. I check the cupboards.
They’re still as empty as my complaining stomach. I rummage down the back of the armchair. No loose change there. I should get dressed. I find yesterday’s trousers. The door keys are in the pocket. How did I miss that? So now I can leave the house but what’s the point if I can’t buy food. In desperation I take the last of my DVDs and sell them at the second-hand shop on the high street. It breaks my heart to give them up. They were presents from the kids. I stop myself from thinking about the kids. Don’t go there! I buy some bananas and yoghurts. My poor teeth can cope with them. I give one of the bananas to the guy who sits on the pavement next to the ATM, then I go home.
I like the dark months because they give me an excuse to go to bed early. I go to bed. I can’t sleep. I listen out for the church bell. It chimes the hours away.
I wait for twelve chimes and then climb out of bed, throw on the clothes I wore yesterday, walk to the ATM. Sweet, blessed relief. My money’s gone in! Nothing’s open so I go home and lie on the bed, wait for the morning.
I get out of bed. I know I should get washed but I’m too hungry for that. I go to the shop and buy bread, milk, half a dozen eggs, and something that’s supposed to be coffee but tastes like mud. I sit and eat boiled egg and soldiers, drink something coffee-like, while I watch TV. I watch the news because there is some comfort in knowing that the whole world’s gone to hell. It’s not just me. I laugh at re-runs of old, American sitcoms, forget about reality for a short while. I watch programmes where people buy homes overseas, and others where people sell their treasures. They usually get more cash than I did for my DVDs.
The postman walks straight past my door.
Today is turning out to be almost bearable. I break open some tab ends and make myself a skinny roll up. The nicotine hit makes me dizzy. I can see why some people turn to alcohol and drugs. I’ve not reached that point, yet. There’s a bang at the door. I duck and peek out of the window. I think it might be bailiffs. They leave, eventually, but not before slipping something through my letterbox. I pick it up when the coast is clear. Yep, I was right. I can’t keep living like this! I give up. I need help.
I sit with the doctor, tell her what my life has become. She tells me I’m suffering from depression and suggests medication. Alarm bells go off in my head. She asks me if I’d take a tablet if it got rid of an infection. She tells me it’s the same with anti- depressants. I’m scared I’ll become an addicted zombie. She tells me the dose is the mildest possible. She tells me she can put me on a waiting list for counselling sessions. I cry.
The pill I take puts me on a level footing.
I smile at the full moon.
Men’s Health Unlocked is a project that unites the city around the subject of Men’s Health.
Hannah McGurk and Damian Dawtry explain more.
The Men’s Health Unlocked network is an inclusive, supportive space for men to share, learn and grow. It aims to unite the different individuals and organisations working in the field of men’s health so that we can take a joined-up and gendered approach to tackling health inequalities specific to those who identify as men. Men’s Health Unlocked currently has three delivery strands running some on-the-ground projects: Unlock Offline, Unlock Online, and Unlocked Magazine.
Men’s clubs and a helpline, run by Touchstone. Covid-19 has brought a whole range of new challenges to people’s lives. This helpline might be for you if you:
• Want to find out what specialist services are available for men in Leeds, or
• Want to find out the next best steps to resolving challenges you might be facing.
Contact the helpline on 07909 254607
Or email email@example.com
A magazine co-produced with men and used as part of the Manbassador Project. A great place to advertise your activities. The magazine is always looking for men to submit articles or give ideas for content. It is distributed in hard copy by the Orion Partnership, via local businesses, food banks, local charities and more. Can you help distribute any?
Do you know anyone who would like some?
More info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barca-Leeds co-ordinated and was responsible for 'Unlock Online', an initiative that provided 100 data equipped tablets to 100 socially isolated and digitally excluded men across Leeds.
Through the provision of free online access, they connected men with other people and services and unlocked the digital barriers that many men face. Men were able to access vital connections such as men’s clubs or services covering a wide range of areas including mental health services, addiction services and financial inclusion. This project has now ended.
Leeds Dads Weekly Support Session
On Facebook on Wednesday evenings 8-9pm, with a trained mental health worker.
A partnership between Leeds Dads and Touchstone.
More info: email@example.com / 07741 328786
Well Men Activist Training
If you’re a Leeds man living or volunteering in South or East Leeds and you want to improve your skills supporting other men to lead healthier and happier lives, join this free online course.
On Zoom Fridays 10.30 – 12.00
More info: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0113 8730028
To contact Men’s Health Unlocked, part of Forum Central:
Damian Dawtry, Coordinator,
Men’s Health Unlocked
Email: email@example.com Tel: 07985 442630
More Health & Wellbeing.
Stories, interviews and information around physical and mental health.