Movember is men's health awareness month and employers have a crucial role in supporting men's mental health - in and out of the workplace.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
There’s no getting away from the facts: men’s mental health is in need of a rethink. While conversations around mental health – from the workplace to professional sport – are gathering momentum, far more acceptance and support is needed if we are to tackle the ongoing mental health epidemic.
This month, millions will be raised worldwide as moustaches are grown for Movember. Yet despite these efforts, men are still struggling to open up about their mental health.
Recent research from Mind, a UK mental health charity, also shows that the workplace is an important factor. According to their research, men are twice as likely to have mental health problems arising their job, compared to issues outside of work.
Any approach to mental health that’s going to work must be adapted to the audience – one size doesn’t fit all – but too often, pride, culture, and stigma can prevent men finding the help they need.
Tackling problems head on
The best mental health solutions are proactive and accessible. They require early intervention and skill-building for sustained recovery.
Peer support works effectively for many men, and specialised programmes like trauma assistance and depression care have also shown to be effective at meeting difficult problems head on when they arise, rather than ignoring problems until it is no longer possible to do so.
Company-wide training and open forum discussions can also improve the culture of a business. Depression, anxiety, stress and burnout disrupt both lives and businesses. This must change – for people – and for the companies they work for to truly thrive in the next few years.
Workplaces have a crucial role to play in the mental health fight, but it is often understated. Now, more than ever, employers need to ‘unmute’ their workforce, facilitate stronger discussions around wellbeing, and become a new front line for employee wellbeing.
Pandemic has increased mental health risk
According to research by LifeWorks, from 2019 to 2021 the proportion of the population considered high risk for mental health issues has increased from 13 to 34 percent.
Even though many businesses have been able to bounce back at least to some degree from the pandemic, it is not surprising that many staff are still dealing with prolonged feelings of uncertainty and instability, and in many cases concerns around job security.
Research also shows that in England alone over 1.5 million people are experiencing a combination of debt and mental health problems, with the problems likely to exacerbate one another.
These struggles can feel particularly acute for men, with financial instability bringing with it feelings of intense stress and anxiety during difficult times.
Workplaces must step up to support men
Thankfully, the conversation around men’s mental health has improved greatly in the last few years, as has the quality and breadth of services and tools available in the workplace.
Many businesses now understand their staff are their most valuable asset, but many can still be more proactive when it comes to men’s mental health, and take a holistic approach that considers the many pressure points that men, in particular, face on a daily basis.
Focusing on creating a workplace environment which nurtures an ongoing dialogue around mental health is a vital first step, even if you encounter resistance in the beginning.
This could involve an informal ‘trouble-shooting’ discussion on navigating stress in the workplace, as well as tailored support and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ individuals, and encouraging HR teams to communicate with and identify employees experiencing personal issues.
When it comes to staff training too, it’s no secret companies have had to evolve their techniques over the course of the pandemic.
A more productive, happier workforce
Many businesses are offering sessions centred around physical and mental wellbeing and are implementing training to help staff gain the perspective of their peers as well as fresh non-biased points of views from outside.
Comprehensive mental and physical support systems that are accessible for employees both at home and in the office are now increasingly commonplace, and offer up a raft of mental health and financial support options with solutions tailored to the employee and their new schedules.
These are increasingly important moves for businesses while we adjust to the changes wrought by the pandemic, and Movember is a stark reminder of the importance of tailored support for wellbeing.
Employers are in a prime position to help drive this change from the top, and proactive decision making now can mean a happier and more productive workforce in the future.
- _Paula Allen is a senior vice president (research and total wellbeing) at LifeWorks, a human resources services and technology company. _