Sue Dunlevy, The Daily Telegraph, reports
As an entertainer he inspired thousands of children to sing and dance in the aisles but after the concert the Blue Wiggle, Anthony Field, would retire to his dressing room and break down.
Overweight, suffering from clinical depression, crippled by pain from infected teeth and swollen joints and deaf in one ear the children’s entertainer suffered in silence for eight years before finally seeking help.
In Men’s Health Week the man behind the blue skivvy is appealing to other men who are depressed or in pain to speak up, tell a friend, talk to a doctor or ring a helpline to get assistance.
“Ten years ago Murray helped me by saying - are you okay, are you well?” says Field.
“The Australian thing is to keep it in, don’t talk about it, she’ll be right mate but that’s not good.
“Talking to someone is the first step, talk to your friend, then someone professional.”
Field is promoting health fund Medibank Private’s 24/7 helpline and says the anonymity of a phone call is sometimes a good way for men to take the first step to get help.
He says his father kept his health problems from the family.
“My father had a stroke, we took him to the doctor and found out he had prostate cancer. We didn’t know about it,” he said.
Men don’t talk about their health because they feel ashamed it makes them appear weak, that they are letting the team down, he says.
And women can sometimes make it hard for them to speak up.
Field’s wife used to joke that he had selective hearing.
“Women love to say that,” he says.
It turned out Field did, in fact, have a hearing problem and he now wears a hearing aid.
The Blue Wiggle suffered in pain and struggled with depression for eight years before he sought help in 2003.
He saw a psychologist, started taking anti-depressants, lost 16 kilograms, had teeth removed and replaced with titanium implants and saw a naturopath.
Ten years later he says he’s drug free, eating well, on the right track and in the middle of a punishing concert tour.
“I’ve turned 50 and can do handstands and the splits. I’m enjoying it too much to give up,” he says.
A Galaxy survey of over a thousand Australians has found only one in four men would tell their partner if they had a cold and only 9 per cent would tell their friends.
Conducted for Medibank Private’s 24/7 helpline the survey disproves the myth that men exaggerate the symptoms of the common cold into man flu.
One in two women tell their partners when they are feeling ill and women are 10 per cent more likely to take a day off work if they get a cold, the survey found.
More than four in ten men claim they are not badly affected by the sniffles and more than half of them won’t take medicine to relieve the symptoms.
Dr Georgia Karabatsos says the common cold and ‘man flu’ are often joked about.
“But for some men this can lead to them feeling unable to discuss their health,” she said.
‘It is really important, as a nation, we don’t let the Aussie male stereotype put pressure on the male population to stay silent about ill health or abnormalities.”