Roll up, roll up! It's Men's Health Week, so it's time to sit up, pay attention and start addressing those health niggles you've been ignoring.
I'm not going to talk to you about prostate cancer, testicular cancer or erectile problems, which you can't fail to miss in the form of awareness campaigns, TV adverts and your latest issue of FHM. Instead, I want to focus on an equally devastating, less publicised, more taboo topic - mental health.
I like to regard myself as a relatively cosmopolitan man, and I'm as aware as the rest of us that the pressure is on - to have a successful and rewarding career, a harmonious and fulfilling relationship, a nice house, as well as keeping up with the latest gadgets, dressing well and affording the odd holiday. Even after a gruelling day at the office and a fight home through the daily commute (of course on my bicycle to keep my fitness up), my evening TV tells me I should also be a culinary extraordinaire, with the likes of Jamie Oliver casually whipping up a three course meal in 30 minutes.
Considering that mental health problems are on the rise, could it be that modern day pressures are becoming real and tangible, yet silent contributors to this increasing phenomenon?
According to results of a household survey, nearly 18 percent of the UK population was diagnosed with one common mental disorder in 2007, compared to just over 15% in 1993. Mental health problems in males are unquestionably on the rise - the number of men admitted to NHS hospitals in England and Wales under the Mental Health Act rose from just over 8,000 per year in 1990 to 14,000 in 2008/2009.
And, worryingly, mental health charity, Mind, highlights that men are more likely to deal with mental health issues through the use of alcohol. A 2007 government study found that people who work are more likely to drink alcohol, and drink more of it, than those who were unemployed, most likely due to work and peer pressures, combined with an attempt to unwind at the end of the day.
The economic downturn has undoubtedly been a contributing factor. A study conducted by Elizabeth Finn Care and Roehampton University established a clear link between economic recession and depression - it is a sad fact that almost half of people have experienced depressive symptoms during the recession. And this is further compounded by research by Kivimaki in 2007, which showed that one in seven men will develop depression within six months of unemployment. Further, Mind's 2009 YouGov survey found that a third of men in one area of the UK were feeling worried or low (at the time of the survey), with 42% concerned about their finances and 29% worried about job security.
It most certainly seems that social influence, work pressures, the recession and modern day life in general are all quietly contributing to a rise in emotional disorders among men.
Think about the aspects of your life that you may need to bring to the forefront. Whether problems lie at work, home or elsewhere, there are charities and male-specific support networks that are there to give you advice and help.
There are some days or weeks when I myself don't feel happy with certain aspects of my life. But how do you know if you're just having a bad few days, or if it's time to seek help? The things we look out for in the medical community include - a significant feeling of isolation; lack of hope for the future (you can only see grey clouds); having significantly less enthusiasm for everyday activities; and physical symptoms, such as unexplained tiredness and lack of energy. If certain feelings persist for several weeks or if the way you feel starts to interfere with your everyday life, it's probably worthwhile seeking advice. Remember, your doctor is there for mental and emotional problems, just as much as any physical ailment.
So gentlemen, please don't be tempted to plunge your head into the sand this week when it comes to your mental health.
Follow Dr Sneh Khemka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drsneh