As we move into June, our attention turns to summertime fun – time with our friends and families, and outdoor activities in the beautiful New Mexico sunshine. Another important hallmark of June is Men’s Health Month. It’s a time to highlight what men do to teach, influence, and provide support for those around them. However, we would like to take this opportunity to illuminate a lesser discussed topic surrounding men. Often the struggles men endure are not clear to those around them; the pervasive drive to “be strong and carry on” can influence physical and psychological suffering that can damage health and wellbeing if it is not addressed.
The goal of Men’s Health Month is to bring much needed attention to conditions affecting men of all ages, ranging from physical illness to mental health issues. Awareness of what diseases affect men most, and what can be done to prevent and treat them, is key to improving and sustaining an optimum quality of life.
Mental health can be an especially great challenge for men, as many suffer in silence and struggle with undiagnosed and untreated issues. Men are affected disproportionately by many mental health conditions: seventy-five percent of suicide victims in the U.S. are male, addiction affects men at a rate that is three times that of women, and men are at higher risk of being exposed to traumatic events, which can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment for these and oth
er mental health conditions is very individual—though no matter what treatment ultimately benefits each person, the very first step is to know that it is OK to reach out and seek comfort in loved ones or a professional.
If you or a loved one struggles to manage your PTSD symptoms here are some tips that I have found helpful for patients:
- Deep Breathing: When you inhale, your diaphragm should expand. When you exhale, your diaphragm should fall. This will help your mind and emotions feel more connected to your body, helping ground your thoughts.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This exercise alternates between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body. Choose a muscle group (try your biceps first) and flex as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds then release the tension. Practice the same flex and release method with muscle groups throughout your body. This causes relaxation to be felt on a spectrum – going from one extreme to the other can help you feel more in control of your body and emotions.
- Expressive Writing: This is an effective way to express yourself and can help you better understand your emotions. Consider this your first step towards sharing your thoughts with others. Speaking up can be difficult but writing a letter or email can be the gateway to having open and meaningful conversations.
- Social Support: Find someone or a group of people who you trust and can talk to about your struggles. Human interaction is extremely important during a healing process. Having someone to lean on is healthy and can be helpful for emotional validation.
Cannabis is also known to be effective in treating depression and anxiety that can stem from PTSD.
G-13 Haze is a flower strain that calms mental chatter while providing an uplifting sense of focus. Bhang’s Chocolate Nuggets are ideal for patients battling depression as it prompts a flood of serotonin to the brain which can deliver a mellow mood boost. Always talk to your wellness provider about the options available for you.
As we move into Men’s Health Month, let’s celebrate the importance of all men who enrich our lives by encouraging an open dialogue on mental health issues.
If you would like to seek further assistance for managing your mental health or any other wellness related issues, here are a few helpful resources:
Crisis lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
(Click to visit their websites)
-Liz S., Verdes Nurse Educator