Men's Health Awareness Month - Q&A 003 with Timothy Semenoro
November is Men's Health Awareness Month. According to Movember.com, testicular cancer is the #1 cancer amongst young guys. Yet 62% of those who are most risk do not know how to check themselves. However, when caught early, testicular cancer is highly treatable and curable.
In our 4-part series highlighting Men's Health Awareness Month, Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director for the UK P&I Club, is interviewing some men across the maritime industry in a short Q&A session on the subject of wellbeing.
Our third interviewee is Timothy Semenoro, Partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP.
1. Short background/career history
I have been part of the maritime industry for over 20 years. After graduating from Webb Institute, with a double degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineer, I worked for a few years at a boutique design office focusing on concept designs and pricing for new construction, retrofit repairs and reflagging of ro-ro vessels. Following Tulane University Law School, I started as a subrogation lawyer and shifted years ago to representing vessel interests in instances of cargo loss, casualties, contractual disputes and anything else that needs doing.
I am presently a partner at the New York City office of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, and the Co-chair of its Maritime and Transportation practice group.
2. What does Men's Health Awareness Month mean to you?
November is a time to remember to men also have to take care of themselves both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, men get overlooked more often than not, and put off issues that should be dealt with because someone or something is believed to take priority. Everyone’s health should be front and centre during all months – but being reminded to self-reflect, assessing your own mental and physical health and making sure you are well or getting the necessary help, is what this month means to me.
3. In your opinion, what do you think is the most common misconception about men's health and wellbeing?
That men are “good” mentally and/or physically when they are not complaining about being unwell. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.
4. Do you think the stigma surrounding men's mental health has improved over the last five years? What more can be done?
From my own experience, I think there has been a marked improvement in everyone’s mental health awareness, and COVID played a large part of it. COVID forced a lot of us to change our routines which created pressure, and those underlying and overlooked problems became unavoidable. This unpleasant process motivated people to take the topic of mental health more seriously.
In terms of what can be done, I think the necessary changes are already happening. In the past, if someone had a work injury, the primary focus was on physical care. But what about the short and long-term mental impact? Was there a loss of confidence? Will he be able to handle the normal stress of the job going forward?
Having Men’s Health Awareness Month is a small step towards the solution. Employers recognising that mental health has a real impact, providing these services and assistance, and promoting awareness will be a bigger part of the solution. In the end, an overall change in the way prioritise mental health will drive the change we need. I can see it happening before my eyes – my wife and I take it more seriously than our parents did, and my kids are on another level of being attuned and sensitive to it.
5. Do you have any coping strategies to improve your own health?
Staying positive as a way of life and spreading it, even when I am down. Keeping a positive frame of mind might be forced at times, but as I try to be optimistic and search for solutions, I get hopeful. This may not resolve the immediate problem; however, the goal is to keep myself in a state that allows for problem solving.
Spreading positivity pays dividends. When you reach out to others and get them excited, the feeling is contagious. Although it might seem over the top, it creates a positive atmosphere. At worst, you get a smile or a laugh – but at best, things may start moving in the right direction.
6. What would you like to change about your own health in the future?
Taking it more seriously, more often. I live the stereotype. I keep issues negatively affecting my mental wellbeing to myself because I believe the people depending on me need to take priority. I might even compartmentalise the issues for a later date when I have a little extra time – but that never happens. That is the trap I have to try and avoid.
7. How do you unwind?
I need a way to disconnect from my everyday life, distract my mind for a time, and come back refreshed. There is golf, sport shooting, gaming nights with friends, watching shows with my kids, or eating a meal with my family. It’s nothing fancy, but they have to happen.
8. Tell me about the last thing that made you smile/laugh?
I find myself laughing most often in conversations with my family, friends and colleagues. Life is serious enough. I try to find humour in it wherever I can.
To learn how we can take action, and for more resources on Men's Health and prostate cancer, visit the Movember webpage.