Let’s talk about men’s mental health

Let’s talk about men’s mental health

It’s mental health awareness week, let’s talk about men’s mental health.

“What do you know about men’s mental health when you are a woman?” you might ask.

Yes, this is true, I am a woman. I’m a mother of two amazing children. A boy and a girl and oh, I also have an ex-husband, a brother, a father and some good male friends, so I have some experience of men…

So, what could you possibly have to say, you ask?

Well, I wanted to write a blog acknowledging that even though men are stereotypically viewed as strong, rational individuals, we can’t forget that they are also human.

Mental health affects all of us, irrespective of our gender identity. So why is it that when it comes to men’s mental health, there is a stigma that stops men from seeking help or even acknowledging they are struggling? Around three-quarters of suicides in the UK are men. That is a staggering three times more than women (Government suicide statistics 2022).

Let me share a couple of experiences of men that I know:

The first is about a fourteen-year-old boy. He was bullied at school and felt he couldn’t talk about it. One evening, it got too much for him as he was dealing with it alone. He had a knife in his hand, his sister had been teasing him and it caused him to crack. He was ready to leave the world he felt he couldn’t cope with anymore. Fortunately, his mother was there to talk him down and they both embraced and wept. He finally got the help he needed. The question is: What if he had been alone with no one to stop him? The world would have been robbed of yet another beautiful human being.

The second is about a friend of mine. He was very close to his mother who had just shared her cancer diagnosis with him. He forced himself to be strong, without seeking any emotional support. Over the next two years, he became depressed and sabotaged the beautiful life he had with his wife and children. It wasn’t until he hit rock bottom, and became a danger to himself, that he finally reached out for help.

Sadly, there are many other stories that I can recall about the men in my life.  Those who have endured emotional neglect as a child or experienced trauma. Those who don’t fit the traditional mould of a man and feel rejected by society. Those who are lonely but are afraid to reach out.

Thankfully, we are recognising and actively promoting mental health awareness as a society. However, both men and women still struggle in silence at different parts of their lives due to the stigma associated with it.

Today we look at men’s mental health, the unique challenges men face, and what can be done to foster a healthier mindset.

The stigma around men’s mental health: Expectations of masculinity discourage men from expressing their emotions or seeking support. There is pressure for men to appear strong and self-reliant which can force them to internalise their struggles. This results in increased rates of mental health issues such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety.

Challenges faced by men specifically: Men are discouraged by social norms to seek help. This leads to delayed or inadequate treatment. A sense of isolation created by society makes it difficult for men to connect with others and talk about their experiences. Men often have fewer close friends than women, who tend to have a larger support network.

Break the silence: It is so important to break the silence around men’s mental health. Create a safe and non-judgmental space for open communication. By encouraging men to seek help and share experiences, we can break down harmful stereotypes together.

So what can we do instead?

As well as working together as a society to create a safe space for men, we must acknowledge that promoting men’s mental health in the workplace is also crucial.

Promoting men’s mental health at work:

Promoting men’s mental health is vital for creating a safe and inclusive environment. Below are some strategies that can assist:

  1. Raise awareness: organise workshops, training sessions or guest speakers to talk about the importance of mental well-being.
  2. Encourage open communication: maintain a culture of open communication, where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns. Regular check-ins can help with this.
  3. Provide resources: Employee assistance programmes, online platforms, and counselling services that are promoted and easily available for all employees.
  4. Flexible working arrangements: where possible provide flexible working hours or remote options to help with work-life balance and reduce stress. If remote working, ensure there are enough opportunities to connect with others on the team to avoid isolation.
  5. Provide training for managers: managers and supervisors need to be able to recognise signs of employees struggling with mental health, provide support and handle related conversations sensitively.
  6. Promote work-life balance: create a culture where overworking or unrealistic deadlines are not encouraged. Promote regular breaks and holidays to reset and recharge.
  7. Peer support programmes: Peer support groups focused on men’s mental health can provide a safe space to seek support from others or share experiences.
  8. Normalise seeking help or support: sharing stories of others who have sought help and benefited from it. This can be a step in the right direction to reduce the current stigma.

Promoting men’s mental health at work requires both employer and employee participation. Creating an inclusive and safe workplace benefits everyone, including men. Healthy minds deliver better results, so it also makes business sense for leaders to care for those in their charge.

So, what else can we all do to support men’s mental health?

Encourage emotional expression: Encourage emotional expression in healthy ways. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, seeking professional help or other creative outlets.

Challenge gender stereotypes: challenge traditional ideals of masculinity that discourage vulnerability or emotions. Promote a more accepting definition of manhood where they feel comfortable to seek help when needed.

Promote self-care: Exercise, mindfulness and maintaining healthy relationships should be encouraged and prioritised. Taking care of physical and mental well-being is so important for overall mental health.

Raising awareness: we are moving in the right direction in regard to raising mental health awareness. Educating ourselves and others on mental health and the unique challenges men face all goes towards reducing the stigma and providing a safer environment that supports men’s mental health too.

Addressing mental health is essential in creating a society that values well-being. By challenging stereotypes and promoting open communication, together we can break the silence and support men on mental wellness.