How to be a Man : Mental Health in Lewisham Library

 Today's guest blog is written by Tim Connolly to commemorate International Mens Day and Movember


If you’re anything like me, the 90’s and 00’s were a pretty crazy time. The Second Summer of Love of 88 gave rise to Acid House. I spent the early 90’s at dodgy raves around the M25 and as the scene grew, found myself at the Superclubs in London and Brighton. Before you know it, we had Jungle, Drum and Bass and Breakbeat. Every weekend seemed to pass by without a care.
After a few years, you would think that it would be time to settle down and have a few kids. But something else came along: Britpop. The music scene in the United Kingdom exploded and it felt like a second wind, propelling me through my mid-twenties and early thirties. And throughout it all, I felt pretty invincible. Hangovers and comedowns were smashed through with more partying. It was only in my mid-thirties that things started to change. Friends were partnering up, and having kids. We convinced ourselves that we would still go out and have a great old time. But kids, careers and family commitments slowly took priority and we all found ourselves slowing down.

The partying became less frequent, the late nights got shorter and we found ourselves drifting into middle-age. Nowadays, I find myself weighing up the desire for another beer and an extra hour watching Netflix with a healthy dose of pragmatism: that inner voice saying ‘you’ve got an early start tomorrow’ or ‘don’t forget that meeting at 9:30’. So, those crazy days are long behind me. And, what to do? Well, I’m not fit for the Knacker’s Yard just yet.
 The things I know that work best for living a longer and healthier life are
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Stay at a healthy weight.
• Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
• Be physically active.
• Don’t smoke.
• If you drink alcohol, have no more than a couple of pints a day.
• Get routine exams and screenings.
• Get your eyes checked    

I've had to change a few things to make sure I stick to this. Here are a few of them.  

Get to know your doctor

I used to avoid going to the doctor because I’d rather not know if anything was seriously wrong. I’d find myself making excuses (‘too busy’, ‘you’re over-reacting’, etcetera). However, common sense kicked in and I realised that I’d have to face up to it sooner or later! If you are over 40, you should be entitled to a free NHS Health Check every five years. It can tell you whether you're at higher risk of getting certain health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes or hypertension/stroke. Any follow-up tests or appointments are also free of charge. Which leads me to my next point.

Check your balls!

Testicular cancer is a particular concern for men. But here are some important points to remember.
• Over 98% of men with testicular cancer in the UK are cured.
• Survival rates for testicular cancer have risen every year since the 70s. Then, check your Prostate! Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years. Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra).   When this happens, you may notice things like:
• an increased need to pee
• straining while you pee
• a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied
These symptoms should not be ignored, but they do not mean you have prostate cancer. It's more likely they're caused by something else, such as prostate enlargement.

Eat More than your Five a Day!

‘Who's that gut lord marching, you should cut down on your porklife mate, get some exercise’ I love Pork Pies. And Sausage Rolls. Taramasalata. Cheese. Chocolate Éclairs. But I also love salads, nuts, and oily fish. A little of what you fancy does you good. But a lot of it will make you fat. So, all things in moderation. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.
• eat 5 A Day
• have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
• eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
• choose unsaturated oils and spreads, eaten in small amounts
• drink plenty of fluids

Eating 5 portions is not as hard as it sounds. Just 1 apple, banana, pear or similar-sized fruit is 1 portion (80g). A Nutribullet/blender is a worthwhile investment. It’s a great way of introducing lots of fruit and vegetables into your diet, and very quick to use. I find that I can have a breakfast smoothie ready to drink or take to work within 3 minutes.
You can create a delicious smoothie with some spinach, a banana, some frozen fruit, almond milk and honey, peanut butter or nutella. I’ve tried hundreds of combinations and after 2 years still use mine every day. Don’t assume that ‘eating sensibly’ needs to be a boring or miserable experience. You can save a fortune just by deleting ‘JustEat’ and ‘Deliveroo’ Apps from your phone.
Just making a few changes like these will ensure you will get to enjoy many more dodgy raves for years to come.

 A Reading List

Want to know what makes a man? We have selected a few books that you may find interesting. The link to the digital copy can be found below the description and most of these can be found in our book catalogue or in branches.  There are also many special events to mark this month. You are welcome to our Health Talk , How to Be a Man on the 27th of November by Marzena Zoladz from HealthWatch , who will be talking about how "being the man" is impacting the mental health of our communities' men.

What We're Teaching Our Sons
by Owen Booth, 2018.

Wise and funny, touching and true, What We're Teaching Our Sons is for anyone who has ever wondered how to be a grown up.

We're teaching our sons about money; about heartbreak, and mountains, and philosophy. We're teaching them about the big bang and the abominable snowman and what happens when you get struck by lightning. We're teaching them about the toughness of single mothers, and the importance of having friends who've known you longer than you've known yourself, and the difference between zombies and vampires.

We're teaching them about sex, although everyone would be a lot happier if the subject had never come up.

Meet the married Dads, the divorced Dads, the widowed Dads and the gay Dads; the gamblers, the firemen, the bankers, the nurses, the soldiers and the milkmen. They're trying to guide their sons through the foothills of childhood into the bewildering uplands of adulthood. But it's hard to know if they're doing it right.

Or what their sons' mothers think.Wise and funny, touching and true, What We're Teaching Our Sons is for anyone who has ever wondered how to be a grown up.

All That Man Is
by David Szalay, 2016.


Nine men. Each of them at a different stage of life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving - in the suburbs of Prague, beside a Belgian motorway, in a cheap Cypriot hotel - to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now.

Tracing an arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, All That Man Is brings these separate lives together to show us men as they are - ludicrous and inarticulate, shocking and despicable; vital, pitiable, hilarious, and full of heartfelt longing. And as the years chase them down, the stakes become bewilderingly high in this piercing portrayal of 21st-century manhood.


The Complete Man and Boy TrilogyMan and Boy, Man and Wife, Men From the Boys
by Tony Parsons, 2013.

For the first time as an ebook bundle, Tony Parsons' bestselling series, MAN AND BOY, MAN AND WIFE and MEN FROM THE BOYS. The perfect read for Father's Day, Tony Parsons' bestselling series, MAN AND BOY, MAN AND WIFE and MEN FROM THE BOYS.

In MAN AND BOY, Harry Silver has it all. A successful job in TV, a gorgeous wife, a lovely child. And in one moment of madness, he chucks it all away. This book tells the story of Harry learning what words like love and family really mean.

In MAN AND WIFE, Harry Silver is learning to juggle his many commitments - to his wife and his ex-wife, to his son, his step-daughter and his mother, to his own work and his wife's career. And then someone walks into his life who is going to make it even more complicated.

In MEN FROM THE BOYS, Harry Silver is settled and happy. But can it last? He is soon about to turn forty and his ex-wife is back in town. Soon it could be time to kiss the good life goodbye.


The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know
by Rob Kemp, 2010.

From buying buggies and cutting the cord to dealing with your wife's breastfeeding in public - the life of a first-time father will throw up new experiences every day.

The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide tells you everything you need to know during your partner's pregnancy and the first few weeks of your new life as a dad. Combining expert advice from midwives, psychologists and obstetricians with first-hand accounts, it explains what's happening with her, what's going on with your baby, and what the hell you should be doing every step of the way.

With tips from those who know, what-to-do explanations and fascinating facts, this survival guide will ensure you're armed and ready for your role as a new father - from discovery to delivery and beyond. A must-read for all fathers-to-be.


The good guys : 50 heroes who changed the world with kindness

By Rob Kemp and Paul Blow, 2018.

A life-changing book that shows kids it's cool to be kind. A gloriously illustrated celebration of heroes who have changed the world with kindness and compassion, from David Attenborough to Nelson Mandela, Oskar Schindler to Usain Bolt. What if we celebrated boys for their kindness as well their strength? For their generosity as well as their success? For their loyal friendship as well as their charm? The Good Guys introduces us to 50 heroes who have showed that changing the world doesn't require a sword or a corporate jet.
Readers will find stories of extraordinary men including Muhammad Ali, Professor Green, Patrick Stewart and Lionel Messi, as well as unsung heroes such as James Harrison, who has spent fifty years donating his rare blood to save millions of babies. There's even a section celebrating ten boys who didn't let their young age stop them from helping others, such as Matthew Kaplan, who responded to his brother's bullies by setting up an anti-bullying programme for schools. The Good Guys celebrates the feats of heroes and everyday men, and will show kids that it really is cool to be kind.


Stories for boys who dare to be different : true tales of amazing boys who changed the world without killing dragons
Ben Brooks, 2018. 

This book can save lives. This book can change lives. This book can help to bring forth another generation of boys who dare to be different.' Benjamin Zephaniah Daniel Radcliffe, Galileo Galilei, Nelson Mandela, Louis Armstrong, Grayson Perry, Louis Braille, Lionel Messi, King George VI, Jamie Oliver... all dared to be different. Prince charming, dragon slayer, mischievous prankster... More often than not, these are the role-models boys encounter in the books they read at home and at school.

As a boy, there is an assumption that you will conform to a stereotypical idea of masculinity. But what if you're the introvert kind? What if you prefer to pick up a book rather than a sword? What if you want to cry when you're feeling sad or angry? What if you like the idea of wearing a dress? There is an ongoing crisis with regards to young men and mental health, with unhelpful gender stereotypes contributing to this malaise. Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different offers a welcome alternative narrative.

 It is an extraordinary compilation of 100 stories of famous and not-so-famous men from the past to the present day, every single one of them a rule-breaker and innovator in his own way, and all going on to achieve amazing things. Entries include Frank Ocean, Salvador Dalí, Rimbaud, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Stormzy, Ai Weiwei and Jesse Owens - different sorts of heroes from all walks of life and from all over the world. A beautiful and transporting book packed with stories of adventure and wonderment, it will appeal to those who need the courage to reject peer pressure and go against the grain. It is the must-have book for all those boys who worry about stuff and all those parents who worry about their boys who worry about stuff. It will educate and entertain, while also encourage and inspire.