We need to get men talking and looking after their physical and mental health 1 year ago

We need to get men talking and looking after their physical and mental health

"Get men talking"

If there are two things that men have been afraid of doing since the dawn of time, it's talking about their feelings and talking about their health.

We bottle things up. We find it easier to keep it all inside our own head then taking someone aside and actually sharing our thoughts with them.

They say a problem halved is a problem solved. But, what about if men started to talk to other men about their feelings and about their health? Would that mean solving two different problems at the one time?

The Marie Keating Foundation organised a seminar at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to coincide with International Men's Health Week; their task? Get men talking.

The two and a half-hour seminar was opened and introduced by Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation. Her speech was short, but the words really hit home.

"Cancer is a word that we don't want to talk about but it is a word that 1 in 3 men will hear in their lifetime. We can all reduce the risk by educating ourselves and talking to each other. 90% of those with prostate cancer today will come out the other side."

There were three engaging main speakers in the form of John Lonergan, Dr. Niall Moyna and Dr. Paul D'Alton.

Lonergan spent 42 years in the prison service and 24 of those were as the most senior prison officer in the country. He has seen some of the darkest aspects of Irish life.

"We are cursed with this Irish culture of men and feelings. It's so important to talk. It's a stupid thing to think you're tougher than anyone else. No matter how tough you are, you will always meet someone tougher than you. It's better to accept that you're vulnerable instead," said Lonergan

Lonergan spoke fast but spoke clearly and he weaved in and out of talking about health and feelings and cracked the odd joke in between.

"At my age, I'm blessed to be healthy and once you can say that, you're on the pig's back," he said before admitting that he has never drunk or smoked in his life.

He also stated that a good sleep was a fantastic trick in staying healthy, but his main secret?

"Surround yourself with people that make you feel good, it's alright to talk because it is the first step on the road to recovery and even when you do recover, keep talking."

Dr. Niall Moyna of DCU and Dr. Paul D'Alton took the stage to talk about the importance of keeping fit and healthy.

Moyna, who has been part of the Dublin backroom team and has coached DCU to college trophies such as the Sigerson Cup, said, "if you could put exercise into a pill, it would be the most-sought after drug in the world. Exercise is the medicine and it's the doing nothing that's killing us."

He revealed that people who were moderately fit had a 20% chance of reducing their risk of cancer while people who are extremely fit reduced their risk of cancer by almost half.

"A ten-minute walk a day can add seven to eight years on to your life; imagine what walking thirty minutes a day could do?"

Dr Moyna also told the audience about a brand new app he had launched with DCU called Move Your MET, MET standing for Metabolic Equivalent of Task, which records your fitness. The higher your MET, the fitter you are.

Dr Paul D'Alton is a Clinical Psychologist at St Vincent's Hospital & UCD and was very much behind the Foundation's philosophy of getting men to talk.

"Change begins when we have a kinder relationship with ourselves. We're in a constant state of fight or flight and we are not designed to be on high alert all the time," he said, before comparing it to Des Bishop's famous joke about the immersion, "you wouldn't leave that switched on all the time, well you shouldn't be on high alert all the time either."

Clip via Des Bishop 

Dr. D'Alton concluded, "It's not your fault how you are emotionally and psychologically and the only way to ease our suffering is to experience it fully and to talk to others about it."

The Marie Keating Foundation also works with Heroes of Hope, ambassadors for the Foundation who have overcome tough times in the past and are willing to tell their stories to others in the hope of getting them talking about their own problems.

One of their Heroes of Hope is four-time All-Ireland winning Meath manager, Sean Boylan. Boylan admitted he has always been a very hard character and his motto in life is to get on with things and not to complain.

"I was diagnosed with cancer and I found out I had a very aggressive tumour growing in my prostate. I've always been upbeat and my attitude on the matter was let's just get on with it."

However, Boylan found it very hard to talk about his experience at the time and said that only after he had received the all clear did he open up about his journey and it felt like a weight had been lifted.

"My son was on RTE Radio because of something to do with music. I went on and was interviewed by Miriam [O'Callaghan] too and it was public knowledge by this stage. She said 'Sean you weren't great yourself, you had cancer' and it was the first time it was talked about and it felt good."

Men need to get talking whether it's about our feelings, our health or whatever it may be. We need to come to the reasonable conclusion that keeping something bottled up inside is not the way a modern man works anymore.

One in three men is likely to get cancer at some stage in his life. Take you and two of your closest friends, if one of them was going through something hard, you'd want to try and help them out. So, why act any differently when it comes to yourself?

As Sean Boylan points out:

"We're in a club and the only way this parasite can be put to bed is to hit with everything you have."