Men’s mental health is in the spotlight, so what can managers and co-workers do to help?

Research shows that men are less likely to access mental health support when they need it compared to women.

Yet one in eight men in the UK have a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety. 

For this reason, we all need to put a little more effort into thinking about how we can create the right setting to encourage the men in our lives to speak out and get help when they need it.

The need to focus on this is clear:

  • 75 per cent of all suicides are men
  • men aged 45 to 49 have the highest suicide rate of all age groups
  • in 2019, the suicide rate in men was the highest it’s been since 2000.

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Why are men unwilling to seek support?

There are many entrenched and sometimes complicated reasons why men are reluctant talk about their mental health and tell anyone how they feel. Traditional gender stereotypes and the expectations that society places on men are known to make it less likely for them to get help.

These same traditional gender expectations are also a contributory factor behind some of the reasons for men’s poor mental health enforcing ideas like seeking help is somehow ‘weak’ and that men must be ‘strong’.

As a society we have made real progress in moving away from many of the traditional gender stereotypes yet this particular idea for men is proving a stubborn hurdle to overcome and it’s therefore really important that we all make a greater effort to promote the benefits of getting support and overcome the perceived stigma of asking for help.

What can managers do to help?

Continuing to encourage men to speak up when they have difficulties is, and should continue to be, a strong agenda both at home and in the workplace. We can all help and continue to work towards normalising the experience of talking and dispelling outdated gender concepts.

Being generally observant and looking out for changes or signs that ‘all is not right’ with our male friends, colleagues or family members is the first simple step. From here it’s worth giving some thoughts to how you can create the right setting in which they might open up and talk about how they are feeling.

Taking the time to do this could make all the difference in terms of increasing the likelihood of them opening up and this one step alone could make a significant difference to how someone feels.

During this Mental Health Awareness Week why not try these three simple steps to encourage those around you to speak out:

Make time to ‘check in’.

Simply asking how they are or commenting that you’ve noticed a difference in their behaviour may help. Try not to accept a simple ‘fine thanks and you’ response and think about how you might express your concern or follow up if you do get an initial brush off. Don’t be afraid to ask more than once either, if you’re worried about them and you want them to open up to you, you should also be prepared to open up yourself and not be afraid to tell them your worried about them.

Listen to what they have to say.

This sounds obvious, but I mean really listen. We all tend to think were a lot better at this than we truly are but active listening is a real skill. You don’t have to have the answers or give advice but just listening is really valuable. Having opened up to you, it might encourage them to open up to others as well, including those who could help.

Reconnect.

Whether they take this first opportunity to open up or if you need to make more space to continue to try, try to make a plan to catch up again soon. Quite often all we can do is make the time to listen and be positive and encouraging, but knowing that they have someone who cares could make all the difference.

Communication today is very important both in the business world and in private life. Successful communication helps us better understand people and situations. It helps us overcome diversities, build trust and respect, and create conditions for sharing creative ideas and solving problems.

Although communication itself seems simple, often when we try to establish communication with others, there is always a chance for a lack of understanding that might cause conflicts and frustrations in personal or professional life in relations with other people.

If you would like to know how we can support you and your team to develop their communication skills including how to have difficult conversations please get in touch. We have a range of training options ready to go, which can be delivered in-house or virtually.