International Men’s Day is celebrated across 70 countries on 19 November in order to raise awareness on the challenges that are faced by men across the globe. The aim of International Men’s Day is to focus on men’s and boys’ health, improve gender relations and promote gender equality; encouraging communities to reach their full potential and support all members, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity or religion. This year’s theme is the importance of positive male role models.
Despite what many people may say, everyday isn’t International Men’s Day. Last year, 76% of all suicides in the UK were males. 93% of all workplace deaths in the US are males. 1 in 3 men have been the victim of domestic violence in Australia. Boys are underachieving in schools and are under-represented in colleges across the US. The number of homeless men far outnumbers that of homeless women, and illicit drug use is more common in men than women. The many reasons behind these statistics are complicated, but traditional gender roles tend to put pressure on young boys and men to be the providers, to succeed, and to favour figuring out things on their own, rather than asking for help when it is needed.
Positive role models are fundamental to a child’s development. These individuals inspire us; they help to shape who we are and can define our behaviours. A child’s family tends to act as their first role models, but if their family life is detrimental, it can result in negative behavioural traits being developed or normalised. Characteristics like making healthy lifestyle choices, showing respect towards others, and encouraging positive curiosity need to be modeled, rather than merely dictated. For many children and young people that are still developing their own identities, role models will include friends and older acquaintances, along with public figures like athletes, actors, musicians and other celebrities.
Single mother households represent 24% of all families in the US, and many of these children do not have regular contact with their fathers. The overwhelming majority of primary school teachers are also women, and there are millions of young boys that lack a positive father figure in their lives. It is a vicious cycle; their own dads more-than-likely experienced the same situation when they were children. Sadly, many young boys fill in these gaps by finding role models on the streets through criminals and drug dealers, with some as young as 9 years old joining gangs and turning to violence. Increasing the number of positive male role models is vital to fighting the issues of gang violence, drug addiction and street crime amongst boys and young men that we see in cities across the world. Mentorship programs, youth centres and supportive establishments have a key part to play as well.
It is not just positive male role models that are needed; men’s health is another issue common in many communities around the world. A 2016 study by BMC Public Health Australia found that the majority of men do not attend regular health check ups with their GP, missing the chance for preventative discussions and early intervention treatments for illnesses. The World Health Organisation has put health outcomes in men and boys as substantially worse than women and girls throughout the world, but noted that this disparity receives little national or international attention. They also note a troubling trend; with the exception of Australia, Brazil and Ireland, policy-makers tend to address the importance of women’s health either primarily or exclusively over men. The WHO concluded their study by recommending national governments and health institutions to place a greater focus on men’s health without diminishing that of women’s, and to recognise the benefit of this to both men, women and society as a whole.
The Global Action on Men’s Health was established in 2013 with the mission to create a world where all men and boys have the opportunity to achieve the best possible health and wellbeing, regardless of location and background. Its members represent countries like Australia, Denmark, the UK, Germany, the USA, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Their latest annual report explores perceptions of men’s health around the globe, and can be viewed here.
Movember is an annual campaign to raise awareness on men’s health issues including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and male suicide. Each November, millions of men grow moustaches to show their support. Movember began in 1999 with 80 men from Adelaide, South Australia, and has since become a global movement.
It is just as important to talk openly about men’s issues as it is women’s issues. One should not diminish the other. We need open, honest interactions that are fair, balanced and solution-based, recognising our commonalities and differences. Only then will we really start to see true equality.
To donate to the Movember Foundation, click here. All proceeds go towards changing the face of men’s health around the world.
About The Author: Natalie Weekes is a freelance writer currently based in Nova Scotia, Canada. With a background in Marine Biology, her passions lie in sustainability, conservation, health and education. When she is not outside in nature, she can usually be found creating things, researching, and connecting with others around the world. Tweet @TheLostMollusc.