Reflecting on International Men’s Health Week, healthAbility Psychologist Rod Paynter shares his thoughts on this year’s theme Healthy body, healthy mind – Keeping the Balance.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main…”  JOHN DONNE 1624.

It’s nearly 400 years since these famous words were penned and it seems highly unlikely that the famous poet could have anticipated our world in the current millennium – yet these words remain relevant today as ever.

Given recent world events, my intention of sitting down to write some simple words of encouragement for men to do what proves difficult for many – looking after their physical health, and their emotional wellbeing, seems to me to take on a greater level of importance.

With current social challenges like easy access gambling, performance enhancing drugs, pervasive social media and extremes of unemployment and underemployment for some, and the pressure of unpaid overtime or 24/7 employer access for others, is it any wonder that the great Australian dream of owning your own home and raising a family has become a major stressor in itself?  Under such circumstances we shouldn’t wonder that many men devote insufficient time to self-care and maintenance of their physical and psychological health.

The notion of constantly striving for rugged individualism and independence at all costs, for personal recognition; to stand out from the herd, compete for position at the front of the pack, to be always a winner, and never a loser – has become ingrained in current media representations of masculinity.

Sadly, aspirations to meet these ideals often result in masking of true emotion, in refusal to contemplate or admit one’s mistakes, in denial of personal vulnerability – adding to the ever increasing gulf between one’s outer facade and the inner experience of being a mortal and very human being.

Perhaps it’s less pertinent to contemplate the value of your assets and bank balance, and attend more to your personal values.

To ask, “When all is over, and the dust settles, how would I like to be remembered by those I leave behind?”  What legacy does a man bequeath his children if this is not to be measured in bricks and mortar?  What did I stand for and how did I convey those values and actions to my family, friends and community?  In short, how did I contribute to building a better world?  To strive for self-satisfaction and fulfilment, to be content to realise the best version of yourself, and transmit this opportunity to your daughters and your sons would surely constitute a life well-lived.

Somewhere between an overvalued ideal of independence and a morbid fear of dependence lies a middle-ground, an “inter-dependence”- the notion of trusting and relying on each other to jointly meet the needs and aspirations of daily life and deal with those moments of personal crisis and hardship.   I suspect this is the point that John Donne was making so many centuries ago.

Rod Paynter is a Registered Psychologist and holds a Post Graduate Diploma Psychological Studies and Diploma Community Services (Addictions).  If you would like to find out about healthAbility’s counselling services or speak with Rod please phone 9430 9100, or visit our counselling page.