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13 June 2022
‘Building healthy environments for men and boys’ is the theme for Men’s Health Week 2022 (13-19 June). Salvos Magazine spoke recently with Warren Draney, Practitioner Development Coordinator for The Salvation Army Australia, for a snapshot of how individuals, families and communities can help men and boys build healthier lives physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Salvos Magazine: When it comes to men’s health, what are some of the main issues you see men facing?
Warren Draney: Some statistics* show that men’s health is still poor. Men have a lower lifespan than women, complete the action of suicide more often and have greater rates of cardiovascular and accidental deaths.
Loneliness and relationship breakdown are major issues behind male suicides and ill-health. The number of men over 45 who say they don’t have a best friend, male friend or an emotionally close partner is growing.
Many men are disconnected from friends, family and community. Neuroscience shows we thrive best in social environments, so getting men involved socially is something that can help. Joining a Men’s Shed, contacting the local minister, or even something as simple as encouraging them to call a mate for a chat can make a tangible difference.
SM: What do you see as healthy environments, and how can we help build these individually and collectively?
WD: Gathering in healthy, safe communities is important, so providing these, or helping men find and engage with them, is a good start. It must be a place where there is no pressure to perform or be competitive – a place where men can just be themselves.
Safety is key as well. Men need a non-violent place and some standard or code that assures them they are safe.
As males, we have come a long way – although we have a long way to go. Many males will talk about their emotions now, especially the younger ones. Allowing that to occur, making room for it and encouraging men and boys to explore their emotions builds emotional intelligence and understanding.
SM: What can parents of boys do to help their sons grow and develop in healthy ways?
WD: Looking after themselves is key, so boys (and girls) see that behaviour and learn from it. It’s still important for fathers to set boundaries and model how to interact with partners and families. Parents can also establish healthy, age-appropriate boundaries around monitoring what is going on in their children’s lives without being too invasive.
Being supportive must start early on. Talk to them gently when you’re concerned – don’t come down hard on them. Offer them opportunities to talk with others if they would like to.
And look out for changes in behaviours, habits or health, particularly in young men aged 18-24. Many things happen in this age bracket – leaving school, first job, first broken heart. We can expect them to be adults at a young age, but the human brain is still developing up to 30. They need our support.
Education opportunities are also vital, as they lead to better health and social outcomes and other positive flow-on effects later in life.
SM: What role do churches, such as the Salvos, play in helping boys and men develop and supporting them?
WD: The Church has an opportunity to be involved. Men are leaving churches across the country – we are not meeting their needs and must consider new ways of engaging with them. They must feel safe emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Churches can be places of community connection, where men and boys can meet for non-threatening activities and get to know others with a Christian or other faith or no faith. The goal is connection with a healthy network because good mental and spiritual health is developed in community.
If in immediate danger, call 000
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Headspace on 1800 650 890
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774
Head to Health at headtohealth.gov.au
1800 Respect on 1800 737 732
Q Life on 1300 555 727
Brother to Brother on 1800 435 799