This week is National Men’s Health Week, which is an ideal time for us to celebrate the incredible males in our lives. It’s important to share the stories of men so that we can help them feel connected to each other and the community.
You might remember Millo Hosseini from our recent video. His story started when he was living what many consider The Great Australian Dream.
“It was what I describe as, for me, the ideal lifestyle because I had a family, I had two kids, we had our own house, we had cars, we had our jobs and anything that you would expect a normal family would have,” Millo says.
“We spent our weekends going to the beach and so on, so it was what you would call a good family life.”
But when Millo and his partner separated, it spelt more than just the end of their relationship; it was the start of a lonely and confusing chapter for the father-of-two.
“The night when I was left in my house by myself, and there was no noise, no noise from the two kids, it felt empty.
“You suddenly can’t see that family unit around you anymore, you can’t see your kids playing around anymore, and then there is the emotional part of it when you wake up in the morning and again, you’re by yourself and you’re making breakfast and there is nobody around.”
“It’s sudden, and it’s gradual, but it intensifies over time too, and it’s sad, to be honest.”
Despite having a “very close extended family”, Millo tumbled into a deep well of loneliness and felt like he had no one to turn to.
“It’s not about people not caring, it’s about you not admitting it, and you don’t think about reaching out as such until you’re at a point that you’re ready to tell someone what you’ve been through.”
Talking about any emotions, particularly loneliness, is a conversation that Millo believes is simply too hard for many men.
“It’s the way we’re brought up. Men from the outset have to shake off any kind of bad feeling, any kind of emotional experiences that they go through because they are men.
“So, from the outset we have to be showing this persona of masculinity, so that doesn’t allow much space for us to get in touch with our emotions and what we’re going through, which unfortunately makes it harder for us to deal with these kind of things.”
“We’re taught to deal with the physical pain, how to be a man but not how to deal with the emotional pain and experiences we go through.”
Loneliness in Single Men
Millo isn’t alone with his feelings of loneliness. Almost 50,000 couples get divorced every year in Australia, and while these break-ups are hard on everyone involved, it seems more men may struggle with the change than women.
Separated men are 13 times more likely to develop loneliness than married men, as opposed to only twice as likely for separated women compared with married women. Men aren’t just more likely to feel lonely; they’re also less likely to admit to their feelings of emotional isolation.
“With regard to gender, the existing evidence is mixed. There is an awareness that admitting to feeling ‘lonely’ can be especially stigmatizing for men.” Prof. Pamela Qualter from the University of Manchester said.
“However, when this word is not used in the measures, men sometimes report more loneliness than women. This is indeed what we found.”
It’s this stigma that may be stopping men from reaching out to ask for help.
“Men bottle up their feelings, and they really have no output. Men don’t talk generally to other men compared to women who talk to a lot of other women. So, when there is a biological predisposition to be quiet it just is an automatic way of internalising the stress,” explains Dr Shefali Batra, Cognitive therapist and Psychiatrist.
That’s why the focus of National Men’s Health Week this week is to open the conversation. We need our men and boys to feel supported and connected, so that they feel confident to seek help when they need it.
Pick up the phone and open the conversation.
Just like our 1st step in Let’s 5 Loneliness, health professionals are encouraging everyone to pick up the phone and reach out to the males in their life.
“This Men’s Health Week we are asking people to check in with the men in their lives – pick up the phone, send a text or get together online – to start an important conversation, and to share vital support and health information,” said Dr Niel Hall, Western Sydney University’s Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre.
“Everybody has a father, son, brother, partner, mentor, friend or colleague who would benefit from positive support. Sometimes men have less opportunity to seek out support and may have difficulty voicing their issues. By communities working together – people of all genders, cultures and ages – we can start to address these issues and improve health outcomes.”
The Power of a Phone Call
It only takes 5-minutes to check in with someone over the phone, but those few moments are a simple way to stay happily engaged with others - Just ask Millo! After he built up the courage to pick up the phone, he started to reconnect with family and friends. He discovered many people wanted to open up to him too.
“Talking and trying to share my experience and trying to deal with the emotions I had helped me a lot and allowed me to deal with it and I think I am in a much better place.”
“I reached out to my support around me and tried to have a conversation about what I’m going through, and I’m in a much better place right now, much better relationships with my ex that I separated from, with my kids and I can’t be happier actually.”
Now that you have the secret to helping men tackle loneliness, why not check-in on someone in your life? It might feel a bit odd at first, but it gets easier with practice!
Making a 5-minute daily call is just one step in our “Let’s 5 Loneliness” campaign, and there are other ways you can get involved to tackle the loneliness felt by men and women from all walks of life.