Men’s Health Week: Our key health messages from end-of-term assembly

To mark Men’s Health Week, our Prefect group today led an ELC-12 assembly focused on how to look after our bodies – mentally, physically and spiritually.

Speaking at the assembly, Principal David Ruggiero said open discussions around mental health were crucial.

“As a Dominican Catholic school, healing is at the centre of who we are,” Mr Ruggiero told the students.

“This is what Jesus was on about. He was on about including people, being there for the marginalised, for the mentally ill, for those suffering in life, for those just going through a bad day. And he didn’t care where they came from, he didn’t care what they had done, but instead met them where they were and healed them. And that’s what we are called to do as a community.

“I really enjoy my comics. Comics are wonderful because they capture what is occurring at the time. And if I read off a few names, like Batman, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Iron Man, Wanda, Storm, Captain Marvel or Hank Pym, who is the original Ant-Man’s dad, they all suffered with mental illness. They wrote them into a comic series as a way to help society deal with something that no-one ever spoke about.

“When I was here (at Blackfriars) as a student … we never would have had an assembly like this. We probably heard things about manning up, toughening up … and that’s wrong. That’s not what it means to be a man.

“When I sit here today, and I hear from our Prefects and I hear from our staff about the importance of speaking, of asking your mates if they’re OK, of reflecting on your own mental health and that of your friends, of doing something positive for your mental health, I’m very proud of how far we have come as a society. That we don’t have to hide mental health issues in a character in a comic book, but we can expose it and talk about it and do something about it.

“So, well done to our community. If you notice your mate is not having the right sort of day, just ask him if he’s OK. You can make a world of difference.”

Meanwhile, also at the assembly, School Psychologist Kristy Giles and Secondary Teacher Oliver Carroll (on behalf of fellow Teacher Beau Leonard) shared the following information to help promote men’s health.

Dr Giles’ tips for managing mental health

According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 8 men will experience depression and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point in their life.

Research has shown that boys aged between 4 and 17 years old are more likely to have experienced a mental health disorder in the past 12 months compared with girls of the same age. Despite this, boys are 80% less likely than girls to seek formal support for a mental health issue, such as from a doctor or psychologist, online or telephone helpline. Boys are also 40% less likely than girls to access informal support for a mental health issue, such as reaching out to a parent, teacher or friend.

A similar thing happens among adults, too; men are 50% less likely than women to access mental health services.

What can you do to improve or maintain your mental wellbeing and reduce your risk of depression and anxiety? The answer to this may be less complex than you think. The Australian Men’s Health Forum has devised a list of 10 habits of mentally healthy men and I wanted to share these with you today.

Be healthy

This means that you need to ensure that you are eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients each day. More on that below.

Getting a good night’s sleep is also really important for staying healthy. If you are aged between 6 and 13 years old, you should be getting between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. For teenagers between 14 and 18 years of age, 8-10 hours of sleep a night is recommended for optimal health and wellbeing. Behaviours such as avoiding caffeine, turning off devices at least an hour before bed and banning them from the bedroom, as well as participating in meditation or relaxation before bed are important tools to help you get a better night’s sleep. If you find you are lying in bed and worrying about something, get up and write it down so you can forget it for now and worry about it again in the morning, if it is important.

Be active

It is recommended that people under 18 years of age engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. It is important to remember that this does not have to be completed in a single session, but can be done in multiple sessions across the day. An increased heart rate causes more blood to be circulated around the body, including to the brain. This additional blood delivers extra oxygen and nutrients to the brain, keeping the brain healthy and functioning at its best.

When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and hormones that help to improve mood, but also reduce the levels of stress hormones in your brain helping you to feel less stressed and anxious. Regular exercise is also beneficial in helping with emotion regulation; helping you to stay calm and in control in the face of upsetting or frustrating situations. Research has shown that participation in team sports has a greater impact on reducing the risk of developing a mental health condition compared to participation in individual sports. This is good news for all of you soccer and footy fans.

Be connected

Your number of friends on social media is not important, but actually catching up with friends in the real world is really important for maintaining mental wellbeing.

Be happy

Research has shown that engaging in hobbies and other activities that you enjoy reduces stress, low mood and depression, therefore promoting better mental health.

Be outdoors

Pretty simple, get outside and get some fresh air!

Be a legend

What they mean by this is that helping others also helps us to feel good at the same time, helping to improve our mental health.

Be challenged

When we set goals for ourselves and achieve them, or learn a new skill, we feel a sense of accomplishment, which is also beneficial in maintaining mental wellbeing. It is more difficult to feel bad about yourself if you are setting and achieving goals and feeling a sense of accomplishment on a regular basis. You could all set a challenge or goal for yourselves for the school holidays and see whether you can achieve this goal.

Be strong

This is not talking about how many push-ups you can do or what weight you can lift, but rather finding what it is you are good at and putting these talents to good use. Using your strengths to help others, or to contribute to the community, can help to give your life meaning and purpose, which is also important for maintaining good mental health.

Be resilient

Mental health is dependent upon mental strength, which we also call resilience. Resilience refers to a person’s ability to pick themselves up and move on when things go wrong. The more easily you bounce back from challenges, the more resilient you are and the less likely you are to experience poor mental health when faced with challenging life situations. 

Be supported

If you are feeling like your mental health is not as good as you would like it to be, or you are spending a lot of your time feeling stressed, worried, or sad, support is available. I encourage you to have the courage to reach out if you do feel you need to talk to someone. Here at school, we have me as well as the school counsellor, Ms Bucciarelli, if you are ever feeling like you need someone to talk to. Outside of school, you can call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are here to help and support you in the times that you need it.

Mr Leonard’s nutrition tips

At Blackfriars Priory School, you are not just students; you are a community. And as a community, it’s essential to support one another, not just academically but also in terms of overall wellbeing. One crucial aspect of that is taking care of our mental health, and healthy eating plays a significant role in that process.

So, let’s explore why healthy eating matters! The food we consume directly affects our physical and mental wellbeing. Research has shown that certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and magnesium, can have a positive impact on our mental health. So, by making conscious choices about what we eat, we can fuel our bodies and minds for optimal performance.

In Australia, we have a valuable resource called the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, which provides essential guidance for maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet. One of the key visual representations in this guide is the healthy eating pyramid. This pyramid illustrates the recommended daily servings of various food groups, offering a clear roadmap for healthy eating habits. By following the healthy eating pyramid, we can ensure that our bodies receive the right mix of nutrients necessary for optimal mental wellbeing.

Let’s dive into some practical tips along with quick and easy meal ideas that you can try over the holidays.

Energising breakfast

Start your day with a nutritious breakfast that includes whole grains such as oats or whole-wheat bread. Add in some protein-rich foods such as eggs, Greek yogurt or even a handful of nuts. Don’t forget to include fruits or vegetables, which provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Balanced lunch

For lunch, aim for a balanced meal that combines lean proteins such as chicken, fish or tofu with a variety of colourful vegetables. Whole-grains such as quinoa or brown rice can add dietary fibre and sustained energy to keep you focused throughout the day. For your sandwich, choose wholemeal breads and avoid sugary spreads and processed meats.

Smart snacking

When it comes to snacks, choose wisely. Instead of reaching for sugary or processed options, opt for healthier alternatives. Nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried meats and plain yogurt are great options as quick and nutritious snacks.

Nourishing dinners

For dinner, focus on lean proteins such as grilled chicken or fish and pair them with a generous serving of vegetables. Experiment with different herbs and spices to enhance the flavours without relying on excessive salt or unhealthy sauces.

Remember, staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining optimal mental health. So, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body and mind well-hydrated. To make healthy eating even more accessible, there are several online resources, recipe apps, or even cooking channels on YouTube. These resources offer a wealth of inspiration and advice for preparing quick, simple, and healthy meals.

By starting to prioritise healthy eating, we can nourish our bodies and minds, promoting positive mental wellbeing. Remember, small changes can lead to significant improvements in your overall health and general wellbeing.

The ELC students deliver the Acknowledgement of Country at today’s end-of-term assembly.

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