Addressing Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace: Building a Supportive Environment

Men's mental health is an important topic that often doesn’t get enough attention, especially in the workplace. Men's Health Week is a great opportunity to highlight the unique challenges men face, particularly in industries dominated by men, like construction, manufacturing, and other manual jobs. These environments often uphold outdated masculinity standards, which can really erode men’s mental health and the stigma about asking for help can be a real barrier to receiving the right support. This blog explores the impact of workplace culture on men's mental health, some of the challenges they face, and strategies for creating a supportive work environment.

Statistics show that men are less likely than women to seek mental health treatment, even though they experience similar issues. Men make up only 36% of all NHS referrals for psychological therapy, indicating a significant gap in accessing care. According to the Men's Health Forum, 46% of men would feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell their employer they need time off for mental health reasons, and 52% would be anxious about doing so.

Several factors contribute to the mental health issues men face in male-dominated industries, in particular, social expectations and cultural standards. The societal pressure on men to uphold outdated ideas of masculinity, such as self-reliance and stoicism, often prevents them from seeking support, and avoiding vulnerability around mental health can also lead to isolation and untreated issues, which only get worse.

Employers can address these concerns however, by being mindful of their employees' psychological needs and putting strategies in place that support mental health, which really can have significant benefits for the workplace as a whole. When employers provide mental health care, their employees' overall happiness, productivity, and well-being improve. In fact, research shows that companies with strong mental health initiatives have lower absenteeism and higher employee retention rates.

On the other hand, if mental health concerns remain unaddressed, it can have major repercussions for both individuals and organisations, reducing performance and increasing the risk of accidents and general mistakes, all of which also increase business costs.

Organisations can incorporate various strategies however, to nurture their employees' mental health and help change the culture and expectations around men’s mental health:

Encourage Open Conversations: Promoting open communication about mental health helps reduce stigma and fosters a welcoming atmosphere. There is powerful opportunity here for those in leadership to step up and make a difference, possibly sharing their own experiences or at least talking about mental health as a topic and encouraging others to do the same. Frequent workshops on mental health awareness, maybe with different themes, can also be helpful.

Skills Training: Providing employees with training on coping mechanisms, stress management, and strategies for resilience gives them the tools they need to manage their mental health effectively.

Peer Support Networks: Creating peer support networks like Mental Health First Aiders and TRiM practitioners among staff can promote a sense of belonging by allowing them to help and share experiences with each other.

Self-Care Techniques: Promoting self-care techniques among staff, such as mindfulness, regular exercise, and a balanced diet, can help them maintain their mental health. Before starting any wellbeing initiatives it can be really useful to do a survey and learn what things your teams are more receptive to. Over the years, we’ve been quite surprised by some of the wellbeing initiatives that have proved the most popular in male-dominated, manual worker environments including through-the-clothes massage and Reiki.

Addressing men's mental health at work benefits both the individuals and the organisation as a whole. Employers can significantly enhance the mental health of their male staff by creating a welcoming atmosphere that promotes open discussions, offering specialised training, and providing peer support. Implementing these principles can lead to a more engaged, productive, and dedicated workforce. Additionally, by breaking the stigma attached to mental health problems and encouraging self-care, we can ensure that men feel empowered to get the support they need, resulting in a more balanced and healthy work environment.

And remember, think small steps. Making lots of little changes over time will have a greater impact on workplace culture rather than trying to make one gigantic shift, which can leave people wary and less willing to engage.

Sources:

Statistics - https://mentalhealth-uk.org/mens-mental-health/

Greiner, Birgit A et al. “The effectiveness of organisational-level workplace mental health interventions on mental health and wellbeing in construction workers: A systematic review and recommended research agenda.” PLOS ONE 17 (2022): n. pag.

Hulls PM, Richmond RC, Martin RM, et alWorkplace interventions that aim to improve employee health and well-being in male-dominated industries: a systematic reviewOccupational and Environmental Medicine 2022;79:77-87.

Bondar J, Babich Morrow C, Gueorguieva R, Brown M, Hawrilenko M, Krystal JH, Corlett PR, Chekroud AM. Clinical and Financial Outcomes Associated With a Workplace Mental Health Program Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Jun 1;5(6):e2216349. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.16349. PMID: 35679044; PMCID: PMC9185188.

Corpuz JCG. Workplace Mental Health in Schools. Workplace Health Saf. 2023 Apr;71(4):160-161. doi: 10.1177/21650799221147171. Epub 2023 Jan 25. PMID: 36695164.

Waddell, Alex et al. “How effective are interventions in optimizing workplace mental health and well-being? A scoping review of reviews and evidence map.” Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 49 (2023): 235 - 248.

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