Despite coming a long way in terms of normalising mental health disorders and helping to relieve the weight of associated stigmas, there is still a long way to go. As we continue our efforts to help raise awareness of these issues, we’re dedicating this blog to the male community in honour of Father’s Day earlier this month.
A highly prevalent concern is the gap in representation of males suffering from mental illnesses, despite male suicide rates being consistently higher than females’ in this country. Most notably, male to female rates are five times higher in the Republic of Ireland, and 3 times in the UK. So not only is this a topical area, it is also essential in helping us in our mission to break the stigma.
Statistics say that women are 40% more likely to develop a mental illness, but there is considerable debate about the level of undiagnosed mental health issues affecting men. The Men’s Health Forum suggests that this is down to the fact that male emotional and psychological distress often presents itself in a way that does not necessarily fit comfortably within conventional approaches to diagnosis. For example, men don’t often display “traditional” symptoms of depression (such as feeling low, crying, or having sleepless nights), and are more likely to drink, take drugs and/or display aggression. This means that their problems can be misdiagnosed or overlooked.
Research from Mind mental health charity has also found that men are more likely to self-stigmatise or feel embarrassed in admitting they have a mental health problem. This makes it much harder for them to reach out to their family, friends, colleagues or GP, and less likely to receive the support they need. Men’s Health suggests that a more accurate way to determine mental health issues in the male population would to be look at other, more important indicators than the number of clinical diagnoses.
“Sadly too many men wrongly believe that admitting mental distress makes them weak, and this kind of self stigma can prevent them from seeking help and ultimately can cost lives…”
– Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind
So what steps can we take to help address mental health issues in men? A good place to start is in the workplace. A recent study by Mind has found that men are twice as likely to experience mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety (some of the most prevalent issues impacting suicide rates) due to their job. This is in comparison to women, who rate work factors equal to external factors.
Takeaways from the same study also show that men are less prepared to seek help and time off than women, and only 31% feel as though the culture in workplace makes it possible to speak openly about mental health issues. What’s more, a large proportion of employees across all genders feel as though they receive enough support from their line manager with regards to their mental health needs. As a business owner or manager, this actually broaches great opportunity for you to help combat mental health issues and improve general wellbeing within your organisation.
There are many simple solutions you can implement to help employees feel more supported, but without making them feel under too much pressure to speak out if they are uncomfortable.
- First and foremost, lead by example; ensure you discuss mental health and wellbeing issues openly, and encourage your employees to do the same. Let them know that mental illness is understood and supported at work.
- Bring in anonymous feedback cards to allow employees to get their voice heard without speaking to someone directly. Not only is this a good first step in encouraging employees to “speak out”, it shows that you value their opinion. It’s also a great way to establish if there are any common issues affecting the wider team, and can help alleviate stressors before reaching burnout.
- Introduce optional wellbeing drop-in sessions where employees can go to talk to their line manager one to one about any issues they are currently experiencing. This could be related to problems at work or at home; the important thing is to create an environment in which people feel relaxed and supported, no matter their needs.
- Consider coaching programmes to deal with wider problems. Stress can occur when individuals and/or teams are faced with professional development issues that they don’t feel equipped to deal with alone, which can have a significant impact on team morale, as well as growth and efficiency.
The earlier you introduce these initiatives, the more likely you are to see positive results. Take a proactive approach at instilling a more positive culture surrounding mental health in your organisation, and do your bit to help break the stigma.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you take the first, all important steps to support both men and the wider team within your workplace.