Men's Health Awareness Month - Q&A 004 with Johnny Dowling

Movember moustache

November is Men's Health Awareness Month. Life can throw us serious curveballs. Even when things seem tough there is a lot we can do to look after ourselves and others. For example, Movember's four simple steps; A.L.E.C. can help you navigate a conversation with a friend who may be struggling. 

In our 4-part series highlighting Men's Health Awareness Month, Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director, interviews Johnny Dowling in a short Q&A session on the subject of wellbeing. 

Our fourth interviewee is Johnny Dowling, Senior Development Manager for Mission to Seafarers.

1. Short background/career history

After leaving college I went into property sales and then special needs education. I have worked in the charity sector for about 10 years and four of those have been at The Mission to Seafarers. 

2. What does Men's Health Awareness Month mean to you?

Men’s Health Awareness Month is vital as it makes the subject more ‘day to day’. The stigma around mental health is still there but I think that a lot of that is due to our own views of it, so having a very public campaign makes looking for the support you need easier.

3. In your opinion, what do you think is the most common misconception about men's health and wellbeing?

The biggest misconception is that we don’t talk about it – we do! What we don’t do properly is signpost the correct help.

The stigma of taking medication is also there but my advice to people is that you think nothing of taking vitamins for your body so think of it as vitamins to give your mental health a boost also.

In my friendship group, I was the butt of many friendly jokes as my 7:00pm alarm would go off to take my ‘crazy pill’, but it did actually help start conversations with people about my bipolar that had not previously come up. I’m far more open about these things than I used to be and that comes from more people being aware of the importance of good mental health.

4. Do you think the stigma surround men's mental health has improved over the last five years? What more can be done?

I think it has improved but there is always more to be done. Things like the Time to Change ‘Be in your mate’s corner’ beer mat campaign, which was very visual and had very overt reminders to look for signs amongst your friends. The message needs to be repeated until it is a natural part of our conversation.

5. Do you have any coping strategies to improve your own health? 

I reduced and then stopped taking my medication in 2021 after working towards replacing them with exercise and different coping mechanisms. 

Lockdown was probably the most inconvenient time to do this but the dark humour within me felt that as everyone else was going through such bad times why should I use medication as a buffer?

We started the couch to 5K, but I hate running so as soon I achieved it, I stopped. However, I love walking and factor it into my days as often as I can. I find it much easier than running so you can concentrate on surroundings or even your phone.

My youngest son is a huge PokemonGo fan, so we'd play that whilst walking in the woods at the weekend, or I take the option of walking to the post office for work parcels rather than drive. I take great joy in pottering and building things in our garden from random pallets. I'm not a builder and have no experience to fall back on so the mental exercises of how to plan and execute whatever random project I have thought up have been vital.

6. What would you like to change about your own health in the future? 

I aim to get fitter again and exercise more. After a very busy work year it has been too easy to tell myself I’m too busy for exercise. Some colleagues suggested that if I hate being in my own mind during a run, I should run in the woods as I’ll be too preoccupied trying to avoid an injury – I think I’ll give a try!

7. How do you unwind?

My coping strategies are my unwinding methods. If I do not use them regularly then issues can build up through lack of sleep or stress. After a long walk in the woods with my son, we’ll sit in a pub with a drink and crisps and talk nonsense for as long as we can.

8. Tell me about the last thing that made you smile/laugh?

My kids – they are three glorious lunatics who make me laugh in so many different ways!


To learn how we can take action, and for more resources on Men's Health, visit the Movember webpage.

Sophia Grant

Crew Health Programme Director