International Men’s Day

Every year, I write about International Women’s Day as I believe that women do not have the voice they should have in this world and so this is my small effort in spreading the word about women’s voices and the need to be heard and to hear. And so when I realised that I had never written about men’s day, I knew that this year, there had to be a blog post about this day.

International Men’s Day is celebrated annually in November to recognise and celebrate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of men. It is an occasion to celebrate boys’ and men’s lives, achievements and contributions, in particular for their contributions to the nation, union, society, community, family, marriage, and childcare. The broader and ultimate aim of the event is to promote basic awareness towards men’s issues. The objectives of celebrating an International Men’s Day are set out in All The Six Pillars of International Men’s Day. The day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities and highlights positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being.

Calls for an International Men’s Day have been going on since at least the 1960s. Since this time there have been persistent international calls for the creation of an IMD, calls in the form of rhetorical questions about gender equality. The proposed objectives of International Men’s Day included a focus on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. Early pioneers of IMD reminded us that the day is not intended to compete against International Woman’s Day, but to highlight men’s experiences.

There were various attempts to start an International Men’s Day that received little response. An event was conceptualised on 7 February 1992 by Thomas Oaster, with International Men’s Day conceived one year earlier on 8 February 1991. The project was re-initialised in 1999 on November in Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh in 1999 that the International Men’s Day began to get international traction. The new event received overwhelming support in the Caribbean and soon took root on the international scene. Jerome Teelucksingh chose November 19 to honour his father’s birthday and also to celebrate how on that date in 1989 Trinidad and Tobago’s football team had united the country with their endeavours to qualify for the World Cup. Unlike International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, International Men’s Day is not officially recognised by the United Nations, which observes World Toilet Day on November 19. The theme for the 2022 International Men’s Day is Helping Men and Boys.

Although International Men’s and Women’s Day are considered to be gender-focused events, they are not ideological mirror images because they highlight issues that are considered unique to men or women. The history of IMD primarily concerns celebrating issues that are considered unique to the experiences of men and boys, along with an emphasis on positive role models, which is especially deemed necessary in a social context which is often fascinated with images of males behaving badly. In highlighting positive male role models IMD attempts to show that males of all ages respond much more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative stereotyping.

  • The objectives of International Men’s Day are set as six pillars which include:
  • To promote positive male role models – not just movie stars and sportsmen but everyday, working-class men who are living decent, honest lives.
  • To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and the environment.
  • To focus on men’s health and well-being: social, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
  • To highlight discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
  • To create a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.

Like many others, I also wondered why we needed a day to celebrate men when they are celebrated and feted the whole year. For many, celebrating the notion of man which has dominated the socio-economic-political narrative for hundreds of years, leaves a sour taste. International Women’s Day or IWD, which has been marked since 1911, is a global day to celebrate women’s emancipation and draw attention to the barriers still faced by women all over the world. However, International Men’s Day is not intended to compete with International Women’s Day and there are some major objectives behind having a day dedicated to men’s issues.

Many men are still trapped by stereotype threat, conforming to society’s idea of what a man should be. It’s part of the reason that according to the World Health Organization, WHO, suicide is the top cause of death among men under the age of 45, boys are struggling academically and prisons are full of men. Men die 6 years younger than women on average, single fathers who want to be more involved in their children’s lives face a range of barriers and men are less likely to go and see a medical practitioner as compared to women.

Arguably it’s harder for men to be vulnerable because that is acting outside their prescribed gender role. If International Women’s Day is to celebrate women’s success in the face of sexism, IMD can celebrate men challenging stereotype threat. Men have parenting rights, do suffer domestic abuse and do have unmet mental health needs. They are just as lonely, just as vulnerable, but far less likely to admit it and seek help. IMD aims to open the conversation, break down toxic forms of masculinity and remind us all that men don’t have to be imprisoned by stereotypes.

International Men’s Day celebrates positive male role models and raises awareness of men’s issues which are often overlooked including mental health, toxic masculinity and the prevalence of male suicide. International Men’s Day coincides with Movember, when men grow their facial hair to promote conversations about men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

To all the men reading this post, Happy Men’s Day and to all the women reading this, please celebrate the men in your life tomorrow.

In My Hands Today…

The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age – Claudia Hammond

Today busyness has become a badge of honour. We want to say we’re busy, yet at the same time, we feel exhausted. Instead, we should start taking rest seriously as a method of self-care and this book can help us to work out how.

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken, which was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Counting down through the top ten activities which people find most restful, Hammond explains why rest matters, examines the science behind the results to establish what really works and offers a roadmap for a new, more restful and balanced life.

World Mental Health Day

A term that includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, mental health affects how we think, feel, and act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being. Mental health is important for overall health because mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has come to the fore and I am glad that the millennials and the gen Z know that they have to make their mental health their priority. A 2017 study estimated that 792 million people lived with a mental health disorder. This is slightly more than one in ten people globally or 10.7%. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.

Today, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the important role mental health plays. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions. Despite the progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. Many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, yet the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial. Effective treatment coverage remains extremely low.

To commemorate mental health, the World Health Organisation has declared today, 10 October as World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. Celebrated since 1992, World Mental Health Day began at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

The theme for the 2022 edition is “Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority”.  The pandemic continues to take its toll on our mental health and our ability to reconnect with each other. Many aspects of mental health have been challenged and already before the pandemic in 2019, an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder. At the same time, the services, skills and funding available for mental health remain in short supply and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened. Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect whole populations, threatening progress toward improved well-being with a staggering 84 million people worldwide forcibly displaced in 2021. 

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, all of us must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors.  We must strengthen mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable and quality services and supports. Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work. Let’s try and envision a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.

World Mental Health Day

Sunday is World Mental Health Day. In the last two years or so, we all have finally woken up to the importance of mental health and its importance in our lives. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.  For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness. It’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors.  When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted.

There is no single cause for mental illness with many factors contributing to the risk for mental illness, including early adverse life experiences, like trauma or a history of abuse, experiences related to other ongoing or chronic medical conditions, biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain, use of alcohol or drugs or having feelings of loneliness or isolation.

The World Mental Health Day celebrated on 10 October is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against this social stigma. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organisation with members and contacts in more than 150 countries. On this day, each October, many awareness programmes bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide with some countries having an awareness week as part of the awareness programme.

Up until 1994, the day had no specific theme other than general promoting mental health advocacy and educating the public. In 1994 World Mental Health Day was celebrated with a theme for the first time: “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World”. On World Mental Health Day 2018, the then UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed UK’s first suicide prevention minister as the government hosted the first-ever global mental health summit.

The theme for the 2021 edition of the World Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in an Unequal World”. This theme was chosen because the world is increasingly polarised, with the very wealthy becoming wealthier, and the number of people living in poverty still far too high. 2020 highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. Such inequalities have an impact on people’s mental health.

The theme will highlight that access to mental health services remains unequal, with between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high-income countries is not much better. Lack of investment in mental health disproportionate to the overall health budget contributes to the mental health treatment gap.  Many people with a mental illness do not receive the treatment that they are entitled to and deserve and together with their families and carers continue to experience stigma and discrimination. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ grows ever wider and there is continuing unmet need in the care of people with a mental health problem.

Research evidence shows that there is a deficiency in the quality of care provided to people with mental health problems. It can take up to 15 years before medical, social and psychological treatments for mental illness that have been shown to work in good quality research studies are delivered to the patients that need them in everyday practice. The stigma and discrimination experienced by people who experience mental ill-health not only affects that persons physical and mental health, it also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, and also affects their families and loved ones.  This inequality needs to be addressed so that people with mental health issues are fully integrated into all aspects of life. Research has shown that those with physical illness also often experience psychological distress and mental health difficulties. As an example, one can take visual impairment. Over 2.2 billion people have visual impairment worldwide, and the majority also experience anxiety and/ or depression and this is worsened for visually impaired people who experience adverse social and economic circumstances.

The COVID 19 pandemic has further highlighted the effects of inequality on health outcomes and no nation, however rich, has been fully prepared for this.  The pandemic has and will continue to affect people, of all ages, in many ways: through infection and illness, sometimes resulting in death bringing bereavement to surviving family members; through the economic impact, with job losses and continued job insecurity; and with the physical distancing that can lead to social isolation.

So if you or someone you know have issues relating to mental health, please reach out to an expert. If that is not possible, at least talk to someone sympathetic to you and your condition. If there are hotlines or numbers where you can speak with someone, anonymously, please do so and if possible, reach out to a medical expert, even if it is your general physician or family doctor who can point you in the right direction in terms of treatment and counselling. I have always advocated meditation, so try and incorporate some meditation into your daily routine, even if it is as little as five to ten minutes a day, it helps!

Self-care: Make an appointment with yourself

I recently attended a webinar where one of the speakers, a renowned doctor with fingers in many pies said that one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to take some time out every day and do something for ourselves. This is essentially what self-care is all about. Self-care includes anything you do deliberately to keep yourself healthy, be it physical, mental and spiritual. Although prioritising self-care may sound like common sense, especially if you’re considering longevity, it’s often the first thing to go when we find ourselves in challenging situations, whether because of bad health, a financial crisis, job loss, divorce or, today during the pandemic. This is why deliberately is one of the most important words in the definition and why it is important to keep it top of mind and not an after-thought, especially when we find ourselves in challenging times. One needs to be conscious of their well-being before one can achieve true self-care.

Today more than ever, we are hearing about self-care and according to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self-care” has more than doubled since 2015. Self-care is part of the answer to how we can all better cope with daily stressors, according to some experts because today people are feeling lonelier and less able to unwind and slow down, which makes them feel more anxious and overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks.

Self-care is an important part of living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Looking after ourselves both mentally and physically is crucial to taking control of our health. We lead increasingly busy lives and it can be easy to forget to put ourselves first, especially if we have multiple responsibilities and other people to care for. But looking after ourselves will make us feel better, and the better we feel, the better we will be in all areas of our lives – from work to relationships. Self-care doesn’t have to involve a huge time commitment and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. It could be as easy as taking a bath, relaxing with a good book, taking a walk outside or eating a favourite food. It’s about making a commitment to putting yourself first, even just for a while. Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with one’s self as it produces positive feelings and boosts confidence and self-esteem. Also, self-care is necessary to remind the individual and others that their needs are important too.

Self-care has several benefits, most of which are interlinked and committing to a regular self-care routine will improve one’s overall wellbeing. Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming better equipped to manage stress.

Self-care can improve physical health: A big part of self-care is committing to looking after one’s body and becoming more attuned with its needs. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, exercising more or getting enough sleep each night, part of any programme of self-care should focus on looking after one’s physical health.

Self-care can reduce stress and anxiety: Making time for relaxing activities, even something as simple as such as taking a warm bath, listening to music or practising yoga or meditation, is another common theme of self-care. Any activity that makes one feel more relaxed can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety and to lift their mood.

Self-care can boost self-esteem: As well as helping to calm the nerves, taking time to relax and look after oneself can have a positive impact on the way one sees themselves, treating oneself with kindness can make them look upon themselves more kindly. Studies have found that people with higher self-esteem find it easier to deal with setbacks and are more likely to achieve goals of self-improvement.

Self-care protects mental health: Making changes to prioritise self-care can help to manage mental health issues and might even prevent them from getting worse. Of course, self-care is not a substitute for professional help, and one shouldn’t feel they have to tackle their problems alone. If mental health is suffering, please talk to someone. However, if someone is looking to improve their mental wellbeing, taking the time to care for themselves, both mentally and physically is important.

Self-care can lead to better relationships: It makes sense if you think about it: the happier and healthier an individual is, the more they can give to a relationship. This is especially important if the person is a parent or carer when it can be so easy to put someone else’s needs first, but they must look after their health too.

Self-care leads to a healthy work-life balance: Contrary to common belief, workaholism is not a virtue. Overwork and the accompanying stress and exhaustion can make one less productive, disorganised and emotionally depleted, leading to all sorts of health problems, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart diseases. Professional self-care habits like taking intermittent breaks, setting professional boundaries and avoiding overextending ensures that one stays sharp, motivated and healthy.

Self-care helps with stress management: While a little dose of stress is a healthy way to nudge us to meet the deadlines or finish that overdue task, constant stress and anxiety can hurt our mental and physical health. Smart self-care habits like eating healthy, connecting with a loved one or, practising meditation cuts down the toxic effects of stress by improving the mood and boosting the energy and confidence levels.

Self-care leads to better physical health: Self-care is not just about mental health, its also about caring for the physical self, by eating healthy, taking adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene and exercising regularly. Most of us are all less able to handle the stresses that come our way when we’re depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. Or, put more positively, we are more resilient and more able to handle life’s stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally. A massage, a hot bath, or another form of pampering revitalises us inside and out.

Self-care may boost physical health: While self-pampering doesn’t always lead to major improvements in overall health the way a healthy diet and exercise do, the relaxation one gets from it can trigger the relaxation response. This, in turn, can prevent chronic stress from damaging one’s health. So in a sense, self-care is good for you inside and out.

Self-care can improve emotional health: Taking time out to care for yourself can remind us and others that we and our needs are important, too. Having a well-cared-for body can make us feel good about ourselves and our life, and conveys to others that we value ourselves and this can contribute to long-term feelings of well-being.

Self-care makes one a better caregiver: People who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, low self-esteem, and feelings of resentment. And people who spend their time only taking care of others can be at risk of getting burned out, which makes it more difficult to care for others or themselves. Taking time to care for themselves regularly can make them better caretakers for others.

So start living and stop existing because life is a precious gift to waste when there is a choice to have a more meaningful existence. Life has many responsibilities and tends to throw curveballs when we least expect it, but it’s important to remember that taking care of ourselves is also our responsibility. Little things like reading a good book, sipping some great tea, enjoying a warm bath, playing some games, listening to the laugh of a child or playing with them are essential for our daily happiness. So, put away what is taking the time and take some time, even if it is just 30 minutes a day and spend some quality time with yourself.