Don’t be late to see the Doctor

Men don’t talk to each other. That’s what ‘For Men To Talk’ are trying to change. For the first year, since being founded in December 2019, we have really focused on men talking about their feelings and mental health and that will always be our number one priority. However, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of men’s physical health, as well as mental.

Many men don’t get medical check-ups because their health isn’t something they talk about. Most convince themselves that their condition will improve on its own, not wanting to ‘bother’ a doctor. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown, that it maybe a bad diagnosis or a bad outcome. Men are much too casual about, and disinterested in their own health, and again that needs to change.

The UK, especially, have seen a significant increase in the rates of testicular and prostate cancer. It shows that there is perhaps an ignorance in the education of their symptoms. If men focused more on the value of checking for early sign or symptoms then the mortality rate of these cancers could be significant reduced.

The major health risks for all men include both prostate cancer and testicular cancer. The great news is that both cancers have high cure rates and can be successfully treated, as long as the cancer is detected early and has not spread to other parts of the body.

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate gland, the gland that produces the fluid that makes up semen. Tumours are often slow-growing and highly treatable. More than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that’s 129 men every day.

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. But men who are black, and those who have a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer), are 2.5 times more likely to get it. You can download a PDF file of the symptoms poster here.

Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles, which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction. The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump on or in a testicle. There are around 2,300 new testicular cancer cases in the UK every year. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men in the UK. You can download a PDF file of the symptoms poster here.

As mentioned, early detection of these cancers is essential for successful treatment. This emphasises the importance for men to visit their General Practitioner (GP). Not just for recognising the symptoms of these cancers, but for anything that just doesn’t feel right.

Most males who have high blood pressure don’t know it. But having headaches, blood shot eyes or feeling generally unwell can be a sign. Lowering that pressure, with small changes, can make a big difference, as it reduces the risks of a heart attack or stroke.

Men are twice as likely as women to suffer from work-related stress. Stress on its own has a huge impact on health and add to this how men tend to shut off their feelings and ignore their mental health, it can be a ticking time bomb! Headaches, sweating, feeling tired or dizzy are just some of those stress related signs.

Men really need to stop making excuses. Stop blaming it on being busy, afraid of the body exams or even getting on the scales to see how much weight they’ve gained over the years! The earlier they seek a diagnosis, could really be the difference between life or death.

‘For Men To Talk’ 1 Year Anniversary

My name is Luke Newman and I am the founder and director of ‘For Men To Talk’. Today marks its one year anniversary of its launch and although it seems to have gone by in a flash, so much has happened.

I started it as I know how hard it is for men to be open with their feelings. I wanted men to feel comfortable enough to talk and give them a venue to do so.

As I was setting up the room at Jones’ Cafe in Biggleswade. I placed information leaflets from the Samaritans, MIND and CALM on a table in the corner. The biggest killer of men in the UK under 45 is suicide. One in four men have thought about taking their own life and over 40% of men suffer in silence, never sharing their feelings.

I was petrified. Not because I was afraid that nobody would turn up, but afraid that men wouldn’t take up the opportunity to talk. I was delighted to see that nearly 20 men attended that first group meeting. In the next couple of months, those numbers rose.

I’m not a professional, I’m not yet qualified, I will do so in the near future. But from the feedback from the attendees, is that they like that. As mentioned, I had information leaflets available from professionals, if or when the men needed them. But I think that lads liked that it was so informal, no rules, no regulations, no hard questions to answer. The subject could be anything, feelings, worries or even about sport or television, but the comforting thing was that all the men in that room had one thing in common. They were going through troubles, but they wanted to talk.

It was also a chance for men who have finished counselling sessions to continue their journey. A few were saying that although their therapy had been completed and personal growth had been achieved, they wanted to continue talking. The ‘For Men To Talk’ group sessions allowed that continuation.

I’d only been running the group for three months and in March 2020 I would receive £420 as a donation from Potton Colts under 15’s football side. They played a friendly game against Gransden FC at the local football stadium, underneath the floodlights. I couldn’t thank the players, managers, sponsors and spectators enough. Truly overwhelmed.

Then on 23 March 2020, the worldwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome, made our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a national lockdown and ordering Brits to stay at home. This meant banning gatherings of more than two people and closing all non-essential retail. It also meant that our physical group meetings were over.

I couldn’t let that stop the progress of the sessions and needed to think of an alternative. I was introduced to Zoom, a video and audio communications tool. This would allow ‘For Men To Talk’ to continue, in an online form.

However, the basic Zoom plan would only allow the meetings to last 40 minutes. We needed a premium plan which would give us unlimited minutes, but that cost £115.

Mulberry Homes is a privately-owned company that builds both residential and commercial properties. They have been building a new housing estate in my town and had seen advertising posts on Facebook pages. They very kindly donated £400, which paid for that premium plan.

So since 25 March 2020, every Wednesday men would continue their mental health discussions, but now virtually.

This has allowed us to welcome experts to join the meetings, who were able to present and suggest improvements and techniques on improving mental health. Experts have discussed grief, nutrition, exercise and also separation from a partner.

We have also discussed the importance of male cancer awareness and recognising the symptoms. A page is now dedicated on the ‘For Men To Talk’ website with downloadable PDF files recognising the symptoms of testicular and prostate cancer.

For nine months now, the virtual group meetings have been going from strength to strength and attracting men not just from the local area, but as far as Wisconsin in the USA. With current restrictions, due to coronavirus, these meetings with continue online for the foreseeable future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single man who has attended the physical and virtual meetings. Hopefully you are seeing the benefits of talking about your feelings.

I would also like to that all the support from the public, for the kind words, for recommendations, for sharing social media posts, there is so many ways that you have helped.

To 2021, we maybe in unknown waters, but ‘For Men To Talk’ will keep swimming until we reach the shallow end and we can walk again.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For Men To Talk: Who, What, When, Why?

My name is Luke Newman and I live in Central Bedfordshire, England. I’m 39 years old and a very happily married man and father of three terrific sons.

So from afar, you think that I should have a spring in my step and not a worry in sight. Well in a lot of aspects, that’s true and I feel great. But deep inside I have worries and that eats away.

That’s the problem with mental health. From an outsider’s point of view, you may see a smile on someone’s face or a joke made by the funny man in your group and think that they are perfectly happy. When deep inside, they could be struggling and won’t open up! That needs to change!

I’ve struggled since losing both my Mum and sister to cancer over the last 15 years. It’s left me with grief and also anxiety. The difference with me to other men, is that I’m open with it. I will tell people of my struggles and what has caused it.

I’ve had counselling and also undertook cognitive behavioural therapy and it certainly helped my mental health. CBT helped me to manage my problems by changing the way I thought and behaved.

I recognised that there wasn’t any groups for men just simply to talk. So in December 2019, I formed ‘For Men To Talk’. It would give gentlemen the opportunity to be comfortable to open up about their worries with other lads going through similar issues.

At the start of 2020, group meetings started in Jones Cafe in a small town called Biggleswade. I was shocked, I want to say delighted, by the numbers that attended. I was happy that it looked like an avenue had been opened for the nineteen men to communicate and informally talk about their mental health.

I purposely had no experts on hand, just leaflets and contact numbers for professional groups, such as the incredible Samaritans, CALM and Mind (all of which are also on our website). I wanted the men to feel relaxed, without any added pressure.

Over the next couple of meetings, numbers continued to rise. Then the COVID-19 pandemic occurred! The cafe closed and I felt lost. I didn’t want the meetings to lose its momentum, not only for then men who have been attending, but also for ‘For Men To Talk’ in general.

However, after being introduced to the video conferencing website/application, Zoom, we could continue the meetings, not just monthly, but on a weekly basis.

Every Wednesday, since the first lockdown, the group meetings have been attended by many men, trying to improve their wellbeing. As they are online, it is not just men from the local areas attending. Lads from Essex, Doncaster and even Wisconsin in the USA have found out and come on board.

We have also welcomed guest presenters discussing subjects such as dealing with grief, nutrition, exercise and the very important topic of men who have suffered from domestic abuse.

The virtual group meetings have proved successful. We will continue with them for the foreseeable future and until it’s safe to return to the cafe.

‘For Men To Talk is finally getting men to talk about their anxiety, depression and grief and showing that there is no shame in sharing their feelings. You can read some of the feedback on the testimonial page. http://www.formentotalk.co.uk/testimonials