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To mark the annual men’s health week, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association is raising awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.

The charity, Men’s Health Forum, has been leading this year’s campaign between June 14 and 20, providing a spotlight on mental health of men against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around one in eight men in England have a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a recent study undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation.

The research highlighted that suicide was “the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK” while only 36 per cent of referrals to NHS talking therapies were for men, meaning men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women.

The foundation concluded that men were nearly three times as likely as women to become dependent on alcohol, and three times as likely to report frequent drug use. They were also likely to be compulsorily detained (or ‘sectioned’) for treatment than women and were more prone to becoming victims of violent crime than women.

Jayesh Ladva, member of PDA Disabled Pharmacists’ Network “Ally” said: “For anyone living with mental health problems, talking about it with anyone may seem really scary and difficult. For men in particular, who have been told all their lives to “man up” and “be strong,” accessing mental health support can seem to go against cultural expectations.”

Ladva, who is also a PDA Rep in Boots, added: “It has been also observed that men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their health problems; especially when it comes to their mental health. Reason being–traditional societal expectations and stereotypes around gender roles.”

However, over the last few years, there has been greater awareness and interest around the subject of male mental health. It is important to speak up and fight the stigma, he said.

“It’s okay not to be okay. Remember to ask twice – sometimes men say they are fine when they are not,” he stressed.

The Men’s Health Forum is encouraging participation in The CAN DO Challenge, calling for people to sign a petition for a men’s health strategy, something it has advocated very strongly. The charity is asking its supporters to share materials on social media around the Let’s All Talk campaign in order to encourage men to open up.

Calling pharmacies to join and support, Richard Hutton, ability network coordinator, PDA-North, said, “It is important that men seek help early for their health problems, especially for mental health difficulties. Pharmacists can join the ability network for support and can also contact the PDA’s charity partner, Pharmacist Support, for help.”

Men’s Health Week is observed globally to encourage men to engage in “healthier lifestyle choices” and urge them to seek “professional help early for health issues.”

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