June is Men’s Health Month

By Dallas Post Tribune Staff

DALLAS – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women. Each June Parkland Health & Hospital System observes Men’s Health Month to raise awareness by encouraging men to adopt healthy habits for both mind and body.

According to the CDC, the top 10 health issues experienced by men include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (such as road traffic injuries, poisoning, falls, fire and burn injuries, and drowning), chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, suicide, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza/pneumonia and chronic liver disease. The suicide rate among American men is about four times higher than among women, according to CDC data. Women are more likely to attempt suicide but men are more likely to succeed.

“This month gives providers the opportunity to educate their patients and their loved ones about the importance of regular health checkups and encourage men to take control of their health,” said Noel O. Santini, MD, Senior Medical Director of Ambulatory Services at Parkland.

Although physical health is almost always top of mind, “We want our patients, men and women alike, to focus on their mental health, too,” said Alejandro Zavala Cervantes, LPC, a mental health counselor at Parkland’s Garland Health Center. “A person’s mental health influences how they feel, think and behave. It also affects their ability to cope with stress, build relationships and overcome challenges and all of these affect their physical health as well as their emotional wellbeing.”

According to Mental Health America (MHA, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association), every year one in five adults experiences a mental health problem and 6 million men are affected by depression. The top three major mental health problems experienced by men are:

Depression: This illness is characterized by experiencing feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loss or frustration that cause trouble with daily life. Depression can last weeks, months or even years.

Anxiety: These disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear, affecting the ability to function day-to-day.

Bipolar disorder: This illness causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme high and low moods.

Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, many people still view the subject as taboo.

“Discussing mental health issues with anyone, let alone a healthcare provider, is often seen as embarrassing or even unnecessary. In my experience, this is especially true in men,” Zavala Cervantes said. “Many of my male patients have expressed being hesitant about seeking help because doing so implies weakness and is cause for shame. As providers we need to erase this stigma and encourage patients to seek help.”

Getting appropriate and timely care can change lives, according to Celeste Johnson, DNP, APRN, PMH CNS, Vice President of Behavioral Health at Parkland. “The best treatments for serious mental illnesses are highly effective. Between 70 and 90% of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with the right treatments and supports.”

In 2015, Parkland launched a unique Universal Suicide Screening Program to identify those at risk and help save lives by intervening immediately. “Patients who later die by suicide are often seen by non-behavioral health providers in the days, weeks and months prior to death,” Dr. Johnson said. “U.S. data shows that 77% of people who die by suicide had contact with a primary care provider and 40% had contact with an emergency department provider in the year prior to death. We want to use every patient encounter at Parkland as an opportunity to identify those at risk and provide the help they need.”

Treatments for mental health issues may include therapy or counseling, medications and other treatments that can help people lead healthier lives. In addition to seeking professional help, there are many ways to take control of your mental health including:

Take care of your body: Good physical health can improve your mental health. Be sure to maintain a healthy diet and avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

Exercise: Physical activity helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods.

Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness and ability to handle stress.

Learn how to deal with stress: Stress takes a toll on physical and emotional health. While not all stressors can be avoided, management strategies can help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

When to seek professional help: If efforts to improve your mental health seem to fail, it may be time to seek professional help. It’s especially important if thoughts of self-harm or suicide are present.

“We want our patients to know they don’t have to suffer alone and in silence,” Zavala Cervantes said. “We’re here to help.”

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

To access MHA’s online mental health screening tools please visit, https://screening.mentalhealthamerica.net/screening-tools. For more information about Parkland services, visit www.parklandhospital.com.

This article originally appeared in the Dallas Post Tribune. 

Parkland providers urge men to take care of their physical, mental health

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