Mental health in men continues to be a taboo subject in the workplace, with many suffering in silence. The societal norms of gender conformity put pressure on men into being ‘tough’ and ‘strong’, which leaves many afraid to admit their struggles in public and hesitant to getting help. Part of the stigma about mental health in men is that they generally have more difficulty talking about their problems than women do – reflected in the fact that 76% of suicides are committed by men. Suicide has officially become the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 35 in the UK – and globally, every minute – a man dies by suicide.
It’s important to break through this stigma if we are going to have any chance of reducing this heart-breaking statistic. It’s important to recognise the signs of poor mental health and encourage everyone, especially men, to speak out about how they are feeling and to get help, and this starts in the workplace.
In a survey of 15,000 male employees in the UK by the charity Mind, one in three men blamed their workplace for causing mental health issues, compared to one in five women. It was also revealed that they feared the reaction of their managers if they showed any signs of weakness. Further evidence to support this is the fact that men are almost three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent through self-medication (8.7% of men compared to 3.3% of women), with similar rates for those using illegal drugs.
So how do we tackle this stigma in the workplace and recognise the warning signs?
We should all be aware of signs of mental ill-health, especially in people who we interact with and see on a regular basis. Managers and supervisors, in particular, should be trained to spot the signs of poor mental health and know steps to support staff with their wellbeing. Encouraging them to share their emotions and not joking about or judging these feelings, is the best way to reduce stress, help them open up and ensure they are not suffering alone.
Come up with practical ways to help your staff become less stressed by allowing greater flexibility. There’s nothing more stressful than feeling a lack of control in any situation or job role, so helping them make acceptable changes to their workload and working hours can make a real difference in their outlook. It can also improve their productivity because they will be less likely to feel like they’re hitting a brick wall.
It might be tempting to encourage constant hard work, but this isn’t good for mental health or productivity. Encourage staff to finish work on time, take regular breaks and use their holiday entitlement throughout the year. This also involves taking all measures possible to be able to give them their requested holiday days.
A great way to encourage a more open workforce, create relationships and help team bonding is to offer activities outside of the workplace. These can involve mutual-interest events, sporting events, paintballing, social events or seasonal celebration events. Creating these closer bonds will not only help reduce feelings of loneliness and sadness, but can help create the closer relationships needed for sufferers to open up.
A great way to build an open environment at work is to encourage staff to get involved with supportive men’s movements and charities. Things like Men’s Health Week and Movember are perfect, creating awareness of things including mental health and early detection of testicular cancer. Showing your workplace encourages these causes will indicate your company cares for male wellbeing and makes it easier to discuss any issues they may be facing.
Undertaking a health and wellbeing program through a reputable and knowledgable occupational health professional will help improve your employees both inside and outside of work. The program will involve assessments of your employees on how their mental and physical health is impacting their wellbeing, and provide advice on steps to put in place to support a healthier working environment.
At David Barber Occupational Health, we can tailor to you and your employees as part of your health and wellbeing plan. Our specialist team can help improve the wellbeing of all your employees, including your male employees, to ensure that no one is suffering in silence and are getting the suitable help they need. Contact us to find out how we can help.
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