By Cynthia Haro, Nov. 15, 2022
As November sets into motion, advocates of Men’s Health Awareness month aim to push the envelope of what it means for men to take care of themselves. The conversation revolves around men viewing their needs as being valued and significant in society.
“Movember” is commonly known to raise awareness for men’s physical health through the yearly event involving men keeping or not shaving their mustaches. It focuses greatly on mental health issues that occur as a result of unchecked physical ailments.
Movements such as “no shave November” also work towards encouraging men to openly have conversations regarding their health and the collateral damage that might occur when left unchecked.
Leadership Development Coordinator for Male Success Initiatives at Cal Poly Pomona, Reginaldo Robles, describes the importance of the month as being a way to understand the privilege of being a man while acknowledging the challenges that are faced.
“Being able to understand that (health awareness) and get some sort of sense of what you need to do to take care of that is very important to living a healthy lifestyle,” Robles explained. “I think about it as getting an oil change for your car — after a certain amount of miles there’s wear and tear on yourself.”
Robles explained that he often notices said wear and tear in students, specifically men of color, who cannot always prioritize themselves and their own health. The lack of prioritization is often a result of external issues such as head of household responsibilities along with gender norms belittling their needs.
According to MSI Director Joel Gutierrez, a goal of the department is to increase the graduation rates of all men with an emphasis on men of color. Along with this, he highlights the month of November as being a time to shed light on the impact that being open and honest about one’s struggles can have.
“All the things that we do really support the academic achievement of men of color — that’s our goal. It’s to really impact academic achievement and to have a space and place where you feel like you belong,” said Gutierrez.
The reluctancy to seek support from medical professionals, specifically mental health professionals, is a result of the lack of encouragement to have an open discussion about issues faced.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79% of all suicide cases in the United States are composed of males; it is one of the leading causes for death among this demographic. This large disparity can be traced back to the idea that men are meant to be “tough” and often tend to bottle emotions up out of the fear of potential backlash from their peers.
Business Administration student Christian Torres expressed that Men’s Health Awareness month makes people comfortable with acknowledging the mental issues that go unnoticed in many.
“Unfortunately, I do feel like it (men’s health) gets brushed away,” said Torres. “Like once that month is over no one really talks about it anymore.”
This toxic masculinity and “be a man” ideology acts as a blockade that often discourages one from seeking help. It halts the attempt to understand that the importance of one’s health, physical or mental, is not dependent on gender identity, but on basic human needs.
“I’m making sure that my body is right physically but there’s other things that are more mental as well,” said Robles. “Your mental health is critical to being able to push through a lot of different things that are going on in your life.”
Gutierrez hopes that as the MSI department continues to grow, the willingness for men to speak on the topic of their health will grow too. The goal is to represent men in a way that allows for programs such as this one where students and their peers can feel comfortable with seeking help to change their attitudes toward the topic.
To continue this conversation on Men’s Health Awareness month, MSI has organized an evening with keynote speaker Terry Crews. The conversation will revolve around the experiences Crews has endured as an A-list celebrity dealing with toxic masculinity along with his advocacy to end sexual harassment.
Feature image courtesy of Nathan McDine
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