Men’s Health Month: Supporting mental health in the workplace
Movember could be seen as a fun period to grow a moustache, but there is much more to it than that. It is about raising awareness for men’s mental health issues like suicide and physical health issues, like prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
In the UK, 12% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and this number rises to 13% in the US. On the mental health side, men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. These are the numbers that are reported but in reality they might be even higher because men are less likely to reach out for support. For this reason, both topics still need to be discussed more openly, especially mental health, which remains relatively taboo.
Traditional gender roles and society’s expectations play a key role in why men are less likely to discuss their mental health issues. Men are perceived as self-sufficient, tough and stoical; indeed, they are often raised to conform to this gender stereotype. ‘Man up’ and ‘big boys don’t cry’ are the sorts of phrases that encourage this silence surrounding men’s health and foster a society where men are expected to cope alone instead of seeking for help if they do not want to be labelled as weak and less manly.
According to Priory Group, 40% of men won’t talk about their mental health and this is mostly due to being embarrassed and not wanting to appear weak or be a burden to anyone. There is still much work to be done to lift the stigma that surrounds mental health and the ‘strong male’ stereotype.
The main issues affecting mental health
The same survey finds that the top three underlying factors for mental health symptoms are work-related pressures, financial constraints and health concerns.
According to Champion Health, the most common mental health issues in the workplace are anxiety, depression and stress. Their employee wellbeing statistics revealed that 58% of working professionals experience at least mild symptoms of anxiety, and a quarter (24%) meet the threshold for clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety.
Whether work is causing a mental health issue or aggravating it, employers have a responsibility to help their employees. And this process starts with spotting the signs.
Spotting the signs of mental health issues in men
While there is no set list of symptoms for men, some symptoms are more common in men than women. According to the Mental Health Foundation, these include irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking and aggression. Working obsessively is another sign of escapist behaviour (i.e., not talking about it). Men may also be more likely than women to use alcohol and drugs to cope with depression rather than talking about it. Difficulty in concentrating, low levels of engagement, decreased productivity, increased absence and changes in working patterns are other signs.
It is essential that managers are trained in spotting these signs. Once they are made aware of the symptoms and clues, they become better equipped to identify employees suffering from mental health issues. The next step is to check in on employees regularly and encourage them to speak up.
Encouraging men to discuss mental health issues
Managers should never assume that everything is going well in their team because nobody voices any concerns.
According to a survey carried out last year by CoursesOnline, despite a growing awareness of mental health in the workplace, over half (54%) of respondents said that they would prefer to speak to friends or family about their mental health concerns rather than someone at work. Moreover, men are twice as likely as women to need encouragement to access mental health sources and support at workplace.
This shows that employers should continue their efforts to create safe environments for male employees to discuss their mental health issues freely. It is vital for employees to feel they are supported and looked after. They should be assured that they will be listened to without judgement.
Managers can only win their employees’ trust by maintaining an open dialogue with them and making it clear that their conversations will be kept confidential. They should also ask relevant questions to understand the underlying factors and show empathy.
Finding the right strategy
As male employees have different upbringings, backgrounds and values, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for employers and managers to tackle this. However, the key thing is to raise awareness and remind male team members that experiencing mental health issues is not a sign of weakness and that it can be detrimental if not addressed. This can only be achieved if managers regularly check in with the men on their teams, provide space for open conversations and show empathy. Providing employees with good working conditions, ensuring they have a healthy work-life balance and allowing for time to get external support are also vital.
Mental health is just as important as physical health and employers should continue their efforts to develop and raise mental health awareness among employees. Apart from being a responsible employer and doing morally the right thing, supporting male employees also increases their productivity, morale and loyalty at workplace, which in turn creates a motivated, healthy and diverse workforce.
At Paysafe, we are continually evolving what we can offer to our male employees by way of support. One of our company values is ‘open’ and we host internal discussions where team leaders share their personal experiences on various themes such as fatherhood, suicide and testicular cancer, to help create an inclusive environment where people feel they can ask questions and speak up. In addition to providing these safe and supportive spaces, each week we spotlight an employee (male or female) to find out more about the challenges they face in their personal and/or work life, how they balance their careers and family lives, health issues they are experiencing and advice they might have for colleagues. This helps our people recognise that they are not alone and raises awareness of the different ways to combat men’s health issues in the workplace.