There should never be a stigma attached to seeking medical help, whatever the reason.
Sadly however, this is not always the case.
Men are notorious for delaying or refusing to visit a doctor when they are sick.
This often comes with seriously detrimental effects on their health.
But there are other reasons some people avoid seeking help when they are unwell.
- fear of diagnosis
- being ‘too busy’
- not appreciating the health risks
- not understanding preventative care
- cost of medical expenses
Some people would like to visit a doctor but fear reprisals from family, friends or work colleagues.
In many cases, these reprisals may not actually materialise.
But the stigma remains and it acts as a disincentive to seeking medical attention, putting the long term health of many people at risk.
There are many different stigmas that deter people from seeking medical attention.
Male reluctance, mental health and religious and cultural beliefs are among the biggest.
Men under 75 are twice as likely to die from a medical condition that is not just treatable but preventable!
It’s a startling statistic yet there remains an undertone of judgement against men, who visit their doctor.
A 2015-16 survey in Australia revealed only 43 per cent of GP patients were male.
A 2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics report revealed 88 per cent of women were likely to visit their GP, compared to only 78.9 per cent of men.
And women were more likely than men to use every other type of healthcare service, including hospitals.
The stereotype of the ‘macho Aussie male’ who never gets sick is a myth and a dangerous one.
It led to the founding of Movember in 2003, raising awareness about men’s health and in particular mental health, suicide, prostate and testicular cancer.
Cultural and religious beliefs
The world and indeed Australia is one giant melting pot of assorted cultures with many different attitudes towards family, work, health and sickness.
Some cultures encourage the working class family provider who is labouring too hard to fall sick, be they male or female.
Some customs put the onus on family members to make health-based decisions.
Others superstitiously believe that visiting a doctor about a possible health problem will cause that issue to crystallise.
Some observe religions that forbid certain medical procedures.
Some these people already belong to disadvantaged or marginalised groups, compounding their long-term health outcomes.
Even today, mental health retains a level of stigma although thankfully, the community is much more accepting and aware of the problem.
That is thanks largely to raised awareness, combined with the startling statistic that 42.9 per cent of people aged 16-85 had suffered a mental health problem at some stage in their lives.
Another 21.5 per cent have had a mental disorder lasting at least 12 months.
That number rises to 38.8 per cent in the 16-24 age group.
If you haven’t battled it personally, nearly everyone knows someone who is either facing or has had a mental health issue.
It underscores the importance of disregarding outdated stigmas and seeking medical help when facing any kind of mental health issue.
Breaking down the barriers
Greater education and awareness is pivotal to breaking down the stigma and barriers that prevent people from seeking medical attention.
These campaigns highlight the risks and help dispel the myths and misconceptions that plague many health conditions and treatments.
Besides the highly successful Movember campaign, there are many others that have had a significant impact in highlighting various health issues in Australia.
They began as far back as the 1970s with campaigns against smoking and skin cancer awareness and for promoting activity.
Remember ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ and ‘Life. Be in it’?
The Cancer Council continues to support many campaigns including breast, cervical and bowel cancer awareness.
Community support networks also play a big role in breaking down the barriers that prevent people from seeking medical advice.
These networks may be informal, such as friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Or they may be more formal organisations and free to access via phone and online, such as the Cancer Council and Lifeline.
These organisations work hard to support people under duress and to encourage them to seek professional medical help when needed.
Cultivating a supportive environment
Overcoming the stigma that surrounds seeking and receiving medical attention, whatever the reason, is up to all of us.
That means lending an empathetic and non-judgemental ear to a partner, friend or work colleague around the water cooler when they are reaching out.
Sharing your own feelings and experiences helps to foster trust in the system.
It also leads to a more supportive environment leading to better health outcomes for everyone.
At the end of the day, we are all largely responsible for our own health and need to take ownership of the decisions we do or don’t make.
But when making those decisions, it’s important to consider our loved ones and those closest to us who may be impacted if we continue to ignore ongoing health conditions.
So get proactive about you and your family’s healthcare management.
It’s empowering and it might just save your life!
Book an appointment
Most people don’t like visiting their doctor. We get it!
But your health is your greatest asset so why would you neglect it?
Preventative health is today recognised as one of the most important facets of healthcare.
It’s empowering, it’s an investment in yourself and it’s much easier than fighting disease.
At AHA Clinics, our doctors actively promote preventative health.
They also are great listeners and sensitive to anyone who may be apprehensive about their medical condition.
They will take the time to allow you to field your concerns before recommending an appropriate course of action, whatever your health concern may be.
If they think it beneficial, they will encourage you to consider diagnostic screening and suggest making lifestyle adjustments for your overall health and wellbeing.
Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, it may be time to book a check-up to ensure you remain in peak physical condition.
Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.