#MensHealthWeek: Dispelling the stigma of talking about physical and mental health

14 June 2021 . Hong Kong SAR

It’s Men’s Health Week, an opportunity to encourage men to become more aware of health issues they may have or could develop so that they seek the help they may need. James Swatton, Head of Client Management for Bupa Global Hong Kong, shares his experience of surviving cancer and how he believes that speaking openly about mental and physical health challenges will inspire others who are going through something similar.

Caroline Harper

As a long serving member of Hong Kong’s Rugby community, James shared his story with the local community in the hope of dispelling the long-standing stigma around men’s physical and mental health. In the last 18 months he has been involved with organisations including Movember, the Hong Kong Cancer Fund, Talking Mental, RoundTable Hong Kong and Phenomenally Pink to raise awareness for those whose lives have been impacted by cancer or mental health.

What prompted you to get tested?

“Just over a year ago, I noticed I had an ache where I typically wouldn’t expect to have one. It was one of those Sunday mornings where you wake up particularly tired and achy, so typically, I ignored it. It persisted, however, and seemed to get more uncomfortable over the next week or so, and so at that point I went to see my GP. After further tests we learned I actually had cancer markers in my blood and a three-centimetre tumour on my left testicle and was diagnosed with testicular cancer.”

How have you managed your mental wellbeing since your diagnosis?

“My mental health challenges started following a difficult and stressful period at work. I was struggling with anxiety and at times depression without really understanding it. Weirdly, the cancer diagnosis gave me some new perspective which helped me to tackle my mental health. Still today there are good periods and less-good periods, but I notice when I exercise regularly and spend more time outdoors and with friends, I have consistently much better mental health.

I’ve definitely noticed a correlation between staying active and having a more-consistent positive mental headspace. If either one is in poor condition, it can have a domino and detrimental effect on your general wellbeing.”

What advice would you give to others who suspect they may have a health issue?

“My advice would be to listen to your body, don’t ignore the signs- no matter how small they may seem initially. Ignoring symptoms of health conditions is extremely common and is a natural defence mechanism to avoid things becoming real. As scary as it may seem to begin with, the sooner you know about a condition the quicker you can get it treated and prevent it from developing into something more serious.”

Men’s Health week 2021, created by the UK based Men’s Health Forum, runs from 14th- 21st June. To find out more visit their website.