As Movember draws to a close this week, the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) wishes to express its appreciation of all those who participated in activities to raise awareness of men’s health issues over the past month.
We tautoko the movement as a whole and fully support its goals, including developing awareness, funds for research and support for men with prostate and / or testicular cancer before, after and during treatment, as well as combating mental health issues that can lead to suicide.
As the professional body for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand, ANZASW represents a broad range of practitioners who provide support to men experiencing a variety of health challenges in their lives.
Social workers help men deal with the impact of cancer diagnoses on themselves and their families / whānau; they act as allies before, during and after the treatment process, with the goal of assisting men so that they can develop their resilience, cope with the disruption it causes to their lives and move forward with dignity and strength.
In the event that the cancer is terminal, social workers in the community, hospitals and hospices work to ensure that the service user is able to make choices in the best interests of themselves and their whānau / family while supporting all affected by the illness and the impact of loss.
Social workers deploy a range of expertise in several areas to enhance the wellbeing of service users in a strengths-based collaborative manner, working with the affected person and their wider support network to empower them to resolve or cope with the challenges they face.
Social work distinguishes itself from other professions within the health sector in that it takes into account a number of factors that contribute to illness, including at the socio-economic and personal level.
“Our profession is about putting these [issues] into a social context, so that’s not a purely medical thing,” Peter Matthewson, a Lecturer in Social Policy at Unitec, Auckland, told the Association. He observed that making men more “socially connected, becoming more open to discussing their health and significant moments in their lives” was an important part of supporting their health.
Social workers are active in men’s groups across the country, ending isolation and working with young people from sexual, ethnic and gender minorities who are experiencing difficulty in their lives. Men from these groups have disproportionately higher rates of suicide in Aotearoa.
Peter’s engagement with Movember this month was prompted in part by his own struggles with depression, he said. “The issues for men that Movember highlights are really important. I’ve had my own experiences with depression; thankfully, for me it’s been two or three episodes that I’ve recovered from, it hasn’t been an ongoing, lifelong thing, which it is for many people. But it’s been severe enough to make an impact. I have a number of friends who have their own experiences of depression and many of them are in professional, academic, leadership roles and it’s really had an impact.”
Peter also said he believed self-care for men, including colleagues in the social work sector, is an important issue that needs to be addressed as part of efforts to improve health outcomes.
“There’s a sense, as professionals, we’re expected to have it all together to be able to help others, so we don’t necessarily talk that easily about our own struggles and I think that’s something that needs to change,” he said.
James Makowharemahihi, an ANZASW member and oncology social worker in Midland, appealed to men from their late thirties onwards to get checked out for all forms of cancer, particularly prostate and testicular, noting that early discovery is crucial.
“It’s really important that men get themselves checked out, they get along to their doctor, to their GP in their community. A lot of men have a tendency to leave their health checks until too late and what they may be afraid of is that they may not be able to any longer to provide to their partner and their children and their families and be a contributor their communities. But cancer need not make their lives stand still,” he noted.
The Association continues to advocate for greater access to health care services for those from lower socio-economic and minority backgrounds, which can an obstacle for getting timely cancer and mental health treatment. We advocate for those affected by health-related and social challenges and look forward to greater progress in reducing the alarmingly high rate of male suicide in our country.
To all those who have taken part in Movember, we
say: Mauruuru koe mo te tautoko i nga tangata o