ROCK FALLS – When it comes to taking care of themselves, men can be dangerously dopey dudes.
Mental health counseling? Nah, they'll just power through it. See a doctor? Over their all-too-soon-dead bodies.
"Men are socialized to be manly and to be tough, to 'man-up' and take the pain," said David Bingaman, a licensed clinical social worker. "We don't go to the doctor unless we're bleeding to death, or our wives or girlfriends make an appointment."
That means men miss opportunities to identify physical and psychological problems early on, when they're most easily treated and have the greatest opportunity for successful outcomes.
That's a trend the 65-year-old Dixon educator aims to reverse.
Bingaman – who recently retired as deputy regional administrator of the federal Health Resources & Services Administration, only to become a behavioral health consultant at the Whiteside County Health Department's Community Clinic and a Sauk Community College psychology professor – has been helping men survive their manliness for more than 40 years.
He started in the '70s, helping Vietnam War vets recover from Posttraumatic stress disorder, the anguish caused by Agent Orange, and other maladies, mental and physical.
His Men's Only Group, for ages 18 to 65, will launch as soon as he can get a handful of men – eight to 10 or so – to sign up.
It's not group therapy, Bingaman said, it's more like a psycho-educational program. He'll give a little mini-lecture at the beginning of each 90-minute session, then participants can ask questions, share experiences, and learn from one another how to better care for themselves.
"I think the younger guys can learn from the older guys, if nothing else, what not to do, so they don't repeat bad behavior by not taking advantage of preventive measures and screening tests," Bingaman said.
It's not an anonymous program, but it is confidential. "What happens in the men's group stays in the men's group. We'll be respecting each other."
There will be eight sessions, topics of which will include things you might expect: the benefits of diet and exercise, depression and suicide in men, and alcohol and substance abuse.
Other topics might not be so obvious: relationships, happiness – "one of the key purposes of life," he said – and death, or at least the top 10 causes of it, because "if you know, you might start cleaning up your act a bit and get the care you need when you need it."
The Men's Only Group will meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays for 8 weeks at the Whiteside County Health Department Community Health Clinic, 1300 W. Second St. in Rock Falls.
Insurance that pays for group therapy will cover the costs, and for those who don't have insurance, payment will be based on a sliding scale, up to $10 a session.
Sessions will start as soon as there are enough participants.
Call 626-2230, ext. 8, to sign up or for more information.
OK, so if you don't see him, see someone!
Hey, all you men, men, men, men, manly men, listen up – David Bingaman and the Whiteside County Health Department have some sobering stats for you:
• Men in the United States have the lowest life expectancy of those in 21 other highly developed countries.
• Not only are men three times more likely than women not to have had a contact with a health care provider for 5 years, but they also are more than twice as likely as women to have never had contact with a health care provider– ev-er.
• According to the Men's Health Network, men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death – most of which are preventable if caught early – and men die younger than women. Women, in fact, on average survive 5 years longer than men, the Centers for Disease Control says.
• A third of men are struggling or have struggled with mental health disorders. Part of the blame can be placed on society in general, which expects boys to be tough and ignore pain.
• Two-thirds say they'll wait until they have "prolonged, severe pain" before visiting a doctor, according to a 2012 survey of 2,000 men. As people get older, though, the rules change. A little pain can get worse, or can signal something more serious.
• Being aware of the risk factors for common diseases such as heart disease, stroke, depression, and prostate and lung cancer, which can kill most men, is a good start.
• It is highly recommended that men see a primary care doctor at least once a year, get screened as scheduled, and follow up as needed to get necessary medical care.