When was the last time you heard or actively joined in a conversation about men’s mental health? It’s probably not something that happens often… This lack of open dialogue is alarming, as research consistently shows that men have different kinds of struggles compared to women, and that their reluctance to seek help, regardless of their age, nationality or background, is often due to gender barriers and stigma.
In a world where archaic sayings such as “Real men don’t express emotions, ” “Man up and deal with it”, or “Stop crying! You’re not a girl” are still heard, November appears as a guiding light, calling us to understand and prioritise men’s mental health. At Kyan, we take this opportunity to not only acknowledge but also actively combat the stigma around men’s mental health, envisioning a society where every man feels empowered to embrace and nurture his mental well-being.
Statistics on men’s mental health
Despite the prevalence of mental health issues among men, they often remain overlooked. The UK Mental Health Foundation reveals a stark reality: men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. The 40-49 age group has the highest suicide rates among men in the UK. However, men are less likely to seek psychological therapy than women.
Men are also more prone to problems like going missing, sleeping rough, becoming dependent on alcohol, and frequently using drugs.
Although this paints a concerning picture, it is important to know that there is help and support available for those who are concerned about their own mental health or someone else’s well-being.
Causes of poor mental health in men
Men’s mental health is subject to standards of masculinity derived from societal expectations and traditional gender roles. This can lead both men and the rest of society to believe that men should rely on themselves and not seek help, that they should avoid expressing their feelings openly, and conform to stereotypical ‘masculine’ traits such as strength and control.
Influences of education and role models
The way men are raised and the role models they encounter contribute significantly to their mental health challenges. Social conditioning often teaches men to cope with problems on their own or to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. The stigma attached to seeking help for mental health problems further complicates the challenges men face.
Lack of awareness and recognition of symptoms
An important factor contributing to men struggling with mental health problems is a lack of awareness of the specific signs and symptoms men experience. As men may experience mental health symptoms differently than women, they tend to downplay or minimise these symptoms. This makes it difficult for those around them to recognise warning signs and makes it even harder to effectively identify and address mental health concerns effectively.
Impact on accessing support
These deep-rooted beliefs and widespread lack of awareness collectively prevent men from seeking and accessing support when needed. The unwillingness to recognise and address mental health issues can lead to exacerbated problems and an increase in anxiety, depression and burnout.
Breaking down these barriers is crucial to fostering an environment where men feel empowered to prioritise their mental wellbeing and seek help.
Signs of mental health issues in men
Here are some of the warning signs that are crucial to be familiar with:
- Changes in energy levels or work performance
- Changes in mood, including anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Feeling anxious, hopeless, or stressed
- Headaches, digestive problems, or other physical symptoms without a clear cause
- Social isolation
Men’s mental health at work
The state of a person’s mental health carries significant implications, having a great impact not only on daily life, but also on the professional sphere. Factors such as productivity and performance are strongly influenced by mental well-being. An article published on Harvard Business Review confirms that while various personal factors contribute to a person’s mental state, the workplace can be a particularly triggering environment.
According to this article, industries characterised by a fast-paced nature or high work volumes, coupled with limited resources (time, budget, autonomy, flexibility and support), commonly contribute to poor mental health in both genders. However, precarious employment, defined by low job security and shorter part-time contracts, as well as career stagnation (lack of promotions or earning lower salaries compared to peers) emerge as pivotal indicators of poor mental health, particularly among men.
Nurturing a supportive workplace
Creating a workplace where conversations about mental health, particularly for men, are not only tolerated but actively encouraged is of paramount importance. Managers play a central role in cultivating a mentally safe environment. Here are some tips:
- Create a safe space: managers, especially male managers, should initiate open and vulnerable conversations about mental well-being. By talking about personal challenges, they set an example and encourage a normalisation of discussions about emotions.
- Mind your language: recognise the impact of language on masculine identity. Reframe discussions with positive terms such as “cultivating mental resilience” and steer away from potentially stigmatising terms such as “fear” and “struggle”.
- Provide resources: equip your leaders with resources and training on mental health awareness. This will enable them to better support their team members and create a more informed and empathetic work environment.
Tips for employees
Whilst support from managers is crucial, employees also play a key role in promoting a mentally healthy workplace. Below you’ll find practical tips for employees to improve their own well-being and that of their colleagues:
- Normalise seeking help: if you have personally sought professional help and experienced positive growth, share your journey with your colleagues. Personal stories help dismantle stigma and inspire others to seek assistance.
- Cultivate empathy and active listening: when a colleague expresses concerns, actively listen without judging or interrupting. Show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and validating their experiences.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance by acting as a role model yourself: demonstrate your commitment to a balanced lifestyle by taking regular breaks, using vacation days and prioritising self-care. Your commitment sets a powerful example that inspires others to prioritise their own well-being.
In conclusion, men’s mental health deserves attention and understanding. By breaking the silence, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a supportive environment, we can pave the way for a society where every man feels empowered to prioritise and nurture his mental well-being. Mental health is everyone’s concern, and together, we can create a culture that values and supports the mental health of men.