I briefly mentioned in a previous post Dr. Robyn Cosford’s inspiring opening speech at this year’s MINDD conference. A key point she made was the growing gap between what’s regarded as normal and what is actually healthy.
Having worked in general practice for decades, Robyn provided us with one illustration after another – Type 2 diabetes, previously called adult-onset diabetes, now not infrequently diagnosed in primary school aged children; delayed speech and learning difficulties in male toddlers which many increasingly regard as ‘normal’; precocious puberty in girls; escalating rates of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents…Robyn asked us as practitioners to be vigilant about helping patients to distinguish between what has become perceived as ‘normal’ and what is actually healthy.
In my MINDD presentation this year I talked about the mental health challenges faced by young men and I expressed a similar concern: that when we witness extensive aberrant behaviour in young men we are prone to rationalise it. Are we mistakenly attributing these signs of dis-ease in males as simply being an initiation into Australian culture? When you hear of young men exhibiting binge drinking behaviour, does it set off the same alarms as it would if your patient was female and if not….why not?
As part of a broader discussion of the issues, I presented two cases of young men with mental health problems – both from very different sides of the tracks, one gifted and the other a struggler but one of the features they shared included the way their use of alcohol & other substances had passively been condoned by society instead of being seen as a call for help. We can help these young men but only once we’ve acknowledged there’s a problem. So now I’m extending Robyn’s plea and ask you to be vigilant in making the distinction between ‘normal’ and healthy… when mothers relay stories of their son’s ‘antics’, when brothers, cousins & uncles temporarily ‘go off the rails’, when young men reluctantly present for a quick fix…
If you missed the presentation and are interested in the full recording check out https://rachelarthur.com.au/product/new-young-white-men-mental-health-challengers-face-mindd-conference1hr-total-50/