All Components of Health Important to Healthy Living
Regardless of how you gender identify, at one point or another, everyone experiences health issues. Whether it is as simple as the cold or flu, or as severe as having suicidal thoughts, there is no person who goes through their life without ever experiencing poor health at one point or another.
According to the World Health Association (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” While all professionals in the healthcare field have their own personal definitions of health, most closely align to that of WHO.
“We are a men’s health organization and to us, health is this state of your physical, emotional and mental well-being,” Robert Huffman, development manager at the Movember Foundation, said.
Mental health is just one important area of one’s overall health.
While mental health does not discriminate based on age, gender, economic status or anything else, members of the LGBTQ+ community often have higher mental health rates. According to The Trevor Project, 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide.
“There’s this gigantic overlap of queer people who struggle with their mental health,” Suchy said. “I think that it’s common for queer people and trans people to feel a lot of anxiety and a lot of uncertainty about both themselves and how the world around them are gonna react…anxiety is a pretty natural state to live in [for queer and transgender people].”
Those who identify as either male or female can face mental health issues as well. Melissa Unfred, the modern mortician, has experienced anxiety and depression since childhood. Her anxiety and depression only got worse after she entered the field of funeral care. Unfred explained that she once weighed 350 pounds.
“As I was losing weight people were paying more attention to me,” Unfred said. “I wasn’t used to all that kind of attention. I was used to being ignored because, as a big girl, I kind of just blended into the wall. So the anxiety really started to come along and after I had lost some weight.”
Men, like members of the LGBTQ+ community, face high mental health rates. In particular, men have extremely high suicide rates. The Movember Foundation reports that one in four adults experience mental health issues, and that every three out of four suicides is done by men.
Huffman encourages men to seek help if they are experiencing any type of mental health issue. “No man is an island, and even if you’re in your darkest times we’re here for you.”
The underlying cause of mental health, regardless of gender, is the lack of funding.
“Mental health is a very touchy situation in this day of age because there is no funding,” Mike Vernacchio, patrolman at Narberth, PA, Police Department, said. “That’s the problem.”
An area of physical health that is not talked about nearly as much as other areas of health is transitioning.
“The big controversy is the fact that most, well not most, but a good chunk of society still says there’s only male and female,” Charlie Ashcom, an androgynous theatre student at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom, said. “Yes, that’s true when it comes to sex because there’s only two sets of parts that you can have unless you’re transitioning. That’s a social construct. That stuff has just been beaten into our heads and our society over generations and generations since the beginning of time.”
“I think I had an easier time as a queer woman than some of the guys did,” Segulin said. “Socially, it’s a lot more accepted for a woman to be not straight than it is for a man. There’s a lot more stereotypes. With men, there’s a lot more focus on, ‘Is he feminine? Is he doing things?’ There’s a lot of focus on, ‘Are you man enough?’ and if you’re a gay man that somehow takes away from your man points. I don’t feel that woman have the same problem.”
In regards to sexual health, Dr. Elna Rudolph, medical doctor and sexologist at My Sexual Health, a private sexual health practice in South Africa, is extremely familiar with sexual health issues that many of her patients live with. While she treats all genders, Rudolph sees those of the LGBTQ+ community very frequently. With her experience, she understands the struggles beyond being sexually healthy these individuals face.
“If you are isolated, if you’re sitting there living the life of somebody that you aren’t and you’re trying to end into this world, it is really very difficult,” Rudolph said. “So it is extremely [important] that there are places where people can get reliable information about their options for treatment and support and partner support and children’s support and whatever.”
How you gender identify may interfere with how you are treated. One area some may not think would matter how you identify would be when it comes time to visiting the doctor. However, there are reports that women especially are treated differently.
“I feel like older doctors may treat people differently or older nurses or just older people in the healthcare field because they were raised in a different time,” Gabrielle Kasper, first assistant RN student at the School of Health Sciences in Reading Hospital, said.
Kasper does see some hope in this different treatment of men and women medically. “Now it’s more about…treating people equally. I think it’s a lot better than it was back then, so I think we’re getting there, but I don’t think we’re fully there.”
With sexual health, experts believe that a lack of education paves the way for the spread of STDs, unintentional pregnancies and not talking to your doctor about difficulties.
“What is sexuality, what is sexual health?” Cindy Rupp, case manager at Caring Communities, said. “You can ask 20 different people and get 20 different answers…that’s one of the questions I have my students struggle with in the very beginning of the course.”
In addition to working at Caring Communities, Rupp also teaches at a local community college a course on sexuality.
“I can tell you the observations having worked with schools for a long time and currently teaching on the college level, [the students] do not get information in school that they feel is relevant to them,” Rupp said. “Some schools do a good job, some schools do a poor job, but the students are often not absorbing [the information]. As students grow up, they tend to pay attention to what’s relevant to their life at that time, so [sexual health] needs to be repeated time and time again so that it’s there when they are ready to hear it. That doesn’t happen.”
What can be done
Even though health and health issues can be a melancholy topic, there is hope of changing this by
simply communicating. This conversation is especially important around men’s health, since men die far younger than women do.
“Just browsing through Instagram or Facebook you’re seeing people post things that are starting to break the barriers of masculinity. Just getting the discussion around masculinity to even occur is something new for men in general,” Huffman said. “Most people have seen masculinity as this huge tough guy who is usually silent, doesn’t show any weakness. Now we’re starting to redefine that as a culture around the world, which I think is really healthy not only for men but for men and women around the world.”
Huffman also mentioned that he would like to see more discussion of [men’s] health on popular television shows, in politics, and see more overall funding.
“We here at Mo HQ like to call ourselves the roadies and everybody out there in the community is the rock stars that are actually starting these conversations—people like you who are actually diving into it to actually find a change and make a change,” Huffman said. “If nothing else just start a conversation.”
By Caitlyn Huebner