How can employers halt the silent crisis surrounding men’s mental health?
Men’s Health Week this year took place between 10-16 June. It was originally set up with the goals of increasing awareness of male health issues on a global level, and encouraging inter- and intra-national institutions to develop health policies and services that meet the specific needs of men, boys, and their families. Focus is not just on the physical – and in recent years men’s mental health has been increasingly put under the spotlight. Some might argue that the situation has reached a crisis point, as suicide is now the lead cause of death in men under the age of 45 in the UK, according to Men’s Health Forum. This year Men’s Health Forum is shedding light on the facts and figures concerning men’s health we should know about to help raise awareness.
Discussions around mental health have become more open and public figures are often seen encouraging us to take action on mental health issues. Phrases such as “it’s okay not to be okay” are helping to destigmatise talking about mental health. Likewise, more organisations are acknowledging their responsibility for employee wellbeing year-round and by marking mental health awareness days.
One in six workers experiences common mental health problems at any given time, according to the mental health charity, Mind. Addressing mental health in the workplace can affect the longevity of mental illness, absence rates and productivity.
It’s okay not to be okay
Discussing mental health openly is still taboo. Whilst it’s “okay not to be okay”, many men face difficulty talking about suffering with poor mental health. Men account for three-quarters of suicides in the United Kingdom, but they are unlikely to access mental health services and seek support. IAPT found that only 36% of their referrals are male.
Part of the stigma that exists around mental health for men is outdated stereotypes about what it means to be a man. Such as men should be macho, dominating sources of power, “strong and silent” and to show no weakness. In many of these images, there’s no space for discussing poor mental health. Expressions like “manning up” are misguided and do more harm than good.
EW Group diversity consultant, Clare Cromarty shares, “I would like to see the phrase “man up” disappear. I know it gets used towards both genders, but it implies that men need to be strong all the time. It should always be okay for someone to not be okay.”
Teresa Norman, another diversity consultant at EW Group also shares, “something I think should stop is jokes about man-flu. I think its wrong to mock people for articulating that they aren’t feeling good and makes it illegitimate to speak about suffering. It makes men less willing to get help when they need it. So, that’s my starter for 10.”
So, what can individuals and organisations do to help everyone feel able to discuss their mental health problems?
91 million workdays are lost in the UK due to symptoms of mental illness
As reported in Stevenson-Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers, businesses investing in mental health interventions report an average of £4.20 return for every pound spent. 91 million workdays are lost in the UK due to symptoms of mental illness. As such, mental health is increasingly on senior leader’s agendas. Poor mental health and wellbeing can impact an individual’s ability to succeed at work and earn a living. Employers have a responsibility to provide mentally healthy working conditions. Organisations can do this by writing mental health and support into their policies, providing mental health awareness workshops, setting realistic goals, and creating positive working habits for their teams.
Offering this kind of support is beneficial for both employers and wider society, and can also reduce absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover. Poor mental health costs UK employers £33-42 billion a year, where private sector employers pay out on average more than £1,100 per employee each year.
“It is crucial that businesses are open and transparent about mental health, and that this starts at the top”, says Vix Anderton, EW Group’s course leader for Workplace Wellbeing for Managers.
Let’s talk about mental health
We encourage all employers to welcome the possibilities of building a stronger, healthier and more inclusive workforce.
At EW Group, we run two practical courses Mental Health Awareness Training and Workplace Wellbeing for Managers that help your organisation make positive changes to support staff with their mental health.