19 November is International Men’s day and it takes place during the ever popular ‘Movember’. But amidst critiquing the varying successes of moustache-growing, it’s important to also take time to consider the importance of men’s health.
Why Is Men’s Health Important?
The statistics on men’s health speak for themselves – men account for three-quarters of premature deaths from heart disease, are twice as likely to die from drug or alcohol abuse and three times more likely to die from suicide.
Men are less likely to access psychological therapy compared to women, with men accounting for only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies. Research shows that men are more likely to turn to harmful coping mechanisms, such as using alcohol or drugs to cope. When talking about their mental health, one in three men attributed this to their work, according to research carried out by Mind in 2017.
Whilst the focus on wellbeing and in particular mental health has increased within society and many organisations, why is it that men often face health challenges alone? This can in part be explained by the traditional expectations of what masculinity is – being strong and keeping it together and perhaps a dogged determination to ‘man up’ rather than face health issues.
It could also be due to a lack of resources and support targeted specifically at men. If we think about men’s engagement with health services, in a man’s life time there are few touch points that offer men the opportunity to look at and discuss their own physical and mental health. So they may not be able to spot any concerns in the first place and when they do, they may not know how to seek help.
What Can Businesses Do to Help?
As with any health issues, raising awareness is fundamental in facilitating change. Research by the charity Samaritans, found that both language and content of any awareness initiatives needs to be specific for men to actively engage. Running campaigns to highlight men’s health concerns – heart disease, prostate and testicular cancers as well as mental health issues such as depression and suicide.
Train your line managers to hold wellbeing conversations. Research carried out by CIPD has found out that only 29% of managers feel confident in being able to spot signs of mental ill health. Likewise when discussing taboo subjects on men’s health, it can be hard for both manager and employee to feel comfortable to open up.
With one in eight men experiencing some poor mental health at any time, it’s important that managers are able to consider the possible life experiences that may be affecting men at work – becoming a father, bereavement, relationship breakdowns. Managers need to have the skills to open up that conversation, not rush to provide a solution but ask the right questions and most important of all, provide space and time to listen to the individual.
Create safe spaces to have vulnerable conversations and permission to open up without being perceived as a weakness. Those safe spaces are across the whole organisation not just with line managers, so this is about ensuring that all employees have an appreciation of likely health issues and can play their part in spotting the signs and supporting colleagues.
Signposting to resources and support. Many organisations may have an employee assistance programme which can offer targeted support for men’s health. Likewise there are external organisations that can help. Sometimes this just isn’t obvious for men who may be having physical or mental concerns. So organisations need to clearly signpost and direct men to those services that can help.
We have come a long way in regards to focusing on health and wellbeing at work for all employees, but on this International Men’s day we should take the time to drive that conversation forward. By talking about the issues and trends in men’s physical and mental health, we can encourage more men to be open about their feelings and access support.