Written by Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing, Westfield Health
The stats on men’s mental health tell a striking story of a lower life expectancy than women – around 20% of men dying before they retire. In under 50s, suicide is the most common cause of death, with men accounting for three-quarters of UK suicides in 2018. They’re also more likely to self-medicate, with 1 in 10 having purchased a prescription-only medication without a prescription.
Despite this, many men’s health issues can be treated effectively if caught early. With around one third of our lives being spent at work, employers have a duty to ensure that they play a part in looking after their employee’s wellbeing.
The first step should be de-stigmatising the mental health discussion. This is even more important for men. Research has shown that 77% of men have suffered from anxiety, stress and depression, with men stating that the biggest pressure in their life is work (32%).
It is generally considered that society’s expectations and traditional gender roles play a part in why men are less likely to discuss or seek help for mental health problems. They can often feel that they are expected to be the “man of the house” and therefore should be strong and in control. While these aren’t inherently bad things, they can make it harder for men to feel comfortable about reaching out for help and opening up. Language is also particularly important here. The use of phrases such as “man up” in the workplace can reinforce these stereotypes and make it harder for men to seek help.
However, employers can encourage all employees and especially men, to talk more openly and offer guidance and support by promoting mental resilience and mindfulness. Employers can also consider reducing pressure on workloads, offering flexible working options and providing training for line managers when dealing with mental health issues. Having an open culture where asking for help is encouraged by managers can make it easier for male employees to come forward for support.
No one should be ashamed to talk about mental health. Communication and support can ensure that people don’t feel alone.
The Movember campaign, for example, takes place every November to increase awareness of prostate and testicular cancer; something as simple as encouraging men to take part in such campaigns can be a good first step into opening up the conversation around mental health and wellbeing.
One size does not fit all
Our Emergency Exit research found that one in four workers are less than a week away from burnout, highlighting that businesses need to be doing more to look after employee wellbeing. In addition to this, 35% of workers are looking for more wellbeing support from their employers.
Having said this, not every employee will want the same type of wellbeing support. Studies have shown that practitioners can improve the success of their support by taking the gender of clients into account – and the same should apply to employers. To help men in the workplace, employers need to know what will work for them as a ’one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work.
Some support options may include:
- Mental Health First Aiders to help provide a confidential avenue to seek support.
- Webinars and training to encourage conversations and raise awareness of when and where to get help.
- The outlet of physical exercise is known to help relieve stress, improve memory, aid sleep, and boost an individual’s overall mood. Regular activity can improve quality of life, and has also been shown to improve mental wellbeing.
- Walking meetings are a great way to get some physical activity in while continuing to get work done.
- Relieving stress through team building activities is a good way to get workers in a different, more social environment with their colleagues. Employers could encourage their team to sign up for events like a local 5k, then plan some training sessions.
By putting mental health on the agenda, employers can break down stigmas which stop men from asking for help. It’s important businesses look at their wellbeing strategy and culture as a whole to address these issues, in particular thinking about how they can avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes which might prevent men from seeking help.