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Men’s health in the spotlight

June 11, 2024

When we met our client, Christian, he had reached “a dark space”.

His long-term use of methamphetamine had led to a number of serious life events. He had separated from his wife after a long marriage, lost his job, been in a road accident and was steadily getting himself into deeper legal trouble, while putting his safety at risk, including one day being stabbed.

“I was tired of the rollercoaster ride that I’d been on the for the past few years and so I got the courage to make the call (to Drug ARM). I really wanted to make a difference to my life and get out of that pit of hell,” Christian said.

“I had been in that cave, that dark space, and I knew I didn’t want to do it anymore. I knew I had potential and could do better.”

For Christian, one of the first positive life changes he made was leaving his hometown in South-East Queensland, to stay with friends for a while in NSW.

“I met awesome friends who were leaving to go to NSW – they left first. They said I could come stay with them,” he said.

Realising he needed to get away from his lifestyle and the peers that encouraged it, he eventually took those friends up on their offer, accepting their help, which he found had his best interests at heart. On his return to Queensland, he decided to keep going with his desire for change.

Even so, making that initial call to Drug ARM for support proved very difficult.

“I was ashamed and scared to pick up the phone and ask for help. I didn’t know what my peers would think of me. But, now in my mid-forties, I know I’m not getting any younger and I wanted to live my life the best that I could,” he said.

Christian is currently engaging with our Community and Family Support Services, and has participated in alcohol and other drug counselling with the team since August 2023.

“They’ve helped me get a lot clearer around boundaries.

“I close my doors to people that I need to. It has helped with managing my emotions and understanding my triggers around anxiety and depression, especially around bumping into old peers.

“They’ve helped me to open my eyes and get a lot clearer.”

Since his decision to live a life free from substance use, Christian has completed a certificate course at TAFE and is enrolled in a diploma. He has also even quit smoking cigarettes.

“I’m finally growing up… and have all these new beginnings. I believe with my life experience, I can make an impact – I really want to make a difference in community and give back what I took,” he said.

“I want to be the best person that I can be and hope that my grandmother, aged in her nineties, lives to see me do that and can be proud of what I achieve.”

Christian’s story is one of courage, determination and hope. He still has challenges ahead of him but he has support, information and strategies that he can now apply to continue to move forward with positive change.

International Men’s Health Week is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year in June 2024, that’s three decades of the international health community working to bring attention to the importance of men checking in on their health. The awareness week is also an opportunity to think and discuss what more needs to be done to improve male health and support men to overcome the stigma of reaching out for assistance and treatment.

A Drug ARM senior manager agreed that, “There’s still very much that stigma out there that men have to be strong. If they’ve got a limp, it’s a case of don’t worry about it – just push it, push it, push it. If you injure yourself, it’s a case of it’s just an injury, I’m a bloke, I don’t need to address it, she’ll be right.

“Then there’s those who are too fearful to address a health issue. They don’t want to know about it, or they think ‘I’ll address that later when I retire’, but it may well be too late or a lot worse by then.”

In a current environment of high-profile pink campaigns in support of women’s health, as well as increased funding, research, initiatives and policy development around women’s health issues, it is important that we don’t lose sight of men’s health as a focus.

For instance, we know that family breakdowns are currently having a huge impact on men.

Our senior manager said that Drug ARM’s support services were seeing a lot of men who were drinking or using substances to cope with separations from partners that often also involved losing access to their children.

Other high stresses included concerns around their mental health including depression and anxiety, homelessness such as living in tents and cars, legal and financial issues, high levels of work-related stress, especially in the construction industry, as well as job loss.

“Although men are facing all these stresses and more, there just aren’t enough mental health or support services for them and very few places of refuge,” our senior manager said.

“It’s even worse in the regions. In our farming regions, we come across that fourth-generation farmer who has gone bankrupt, which is incredibly stressful, and yet he doesn’t have access to the same supports that men have in the cities. We are also seeing a high rate of suicide among male Aboriginal people.

“If there were more male oriented services, more men would get support.”

He cited domestic violence as an example where both sides of the issue needed to be addressed. “This is an issue where we are seeing more services and supports being rolled out for women and children, which of course is to be applauded and they are justly needed. However, the men involved in the violence are often experiencing mental health or alcohol and other drug issues at the time and also need to be offered tailored support.

“These acts of domestic violence can at times be occurring after drug and alcohol use. With support men can better understand what’s underlying their behaviour and gain information, tools and strategies to help them be less reactive and make choices that lead to more peaceful outcomes for all.”

During this awareness week, Drug ARM asks men to consider their alcohol and other drug use and how it may be affecting their physical and mental health.

If possible, don’t wait for serious health problems before acting. Take inspiration from our client, Christian, and surround yourself with the people who care about your wellbeing, and get professional support.

“We often see that problematic alcohol and other drug use is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is going on in their life,” a Drug ARM support clinician said. “We look to help them address all the issues contributing to their use and provide support in a holistic way.”

Drug ARM provides free alcohol and other drug counselling, a Day Program and information and advice for families through its Breakthrough for Families Queensland program. Visit our How we help page to learn more.

Freepik stock images have been used.

Put your health first. Get in contact with Drug ARM to find out how we can best support you. Call intake on 07 3620 8880.


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