Challenge your perceptions about men’s mental health on International Men’s Day

Beckett Frith
Beckett Frith

Senior Content Officer, Mental Health at Work

We know that an employee’s mental wellbeing is influenced by many different factors – for example, gender, race, disability, and financial wellbeing. Our new series explores these issues.

For International Men’s Day, Beckett Frith, content officer for Mental Health at Work, asks employers to challenge their preconceptions about men’s mental health.

International Men’s Day is a chance for us to highlight male role models, celebrate the achievements of boys and men, and for us to consider ways to promote humanitarian values. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect on where our society is letting men down, especially with regards to their health and wellbeing.

And one of the most important ways for us to improve the workplace for men is to ask ourselves what we already think about men’s mental health, and ask ourselves if our preconceptions are correct. Firstly – what do we know to be true about men’s mental wellbeing?

One of the most well-known and frequently discussed issues facing men is suicide. Men’s mental health charity CALM explains that it is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and the cause of 18 deaths every single day. This is a horrifying statistic, and one that rightfully gains attention each year through initiatives such as Movember, where men grow out their moustaches to raise awareness and money for this cause.

If you are concerned about this issue in your workplace, The Zero Suicide Alliance Zero Suicide Alliance The Zero Suicide Alliance is a collaboration of NHS trusts, businesses and individuals committed to suicide prevention. View organisation offers free training​Suicide prevention training from the Zero Suicide Alliance Web page This free online training shows how you can help people who might be contemplating suicide by bringing up the subject and offering support. The course is available to everyone and is accessible without any kind of registration or login.Free By: Zero Suicide Alliance View resource as part of their mission to improve support for people who might be contemplating suicide. It’s available to everyone without any kind of registration or login, so can very easily be distributed and promoted within your workplace to help create a more supportive, confident culture.

We might also have preconceptions about men's mental health problems that aren't right

However, we might also have preconceptions about men’s mental health problems that aren’t right. Some conditions, for example, are more closely associated with women, and so resources available for men experiencing them are limited. Lesser-discussed mental health problems include eating disorders, which are often viewed as an issue that women experience more often than men. However, this belief risks letting down a huge proportion of the people who need our support. The National Centre for Eating Disorders says that while the gender distribution of such issues is unknown, up to half of those affected could be men.

And, over the past few years, several celebrities have opened up about their own experiences with eating disorders. Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston described himself as a “lifelong anorexic” in his autobiography, published this September. “I always thought of it as a filthy secret, because I’m northern, because I’m male and because I’m working class,” he says.

And television doctor Christian Jessen has revealed he has experienced muscle dysmorphia – a problem that can make people believe their body is too skinny, which they may obsessively try to fix by gaining muscle.

Two men work on a building

So how can we help men who may be experiencing eating- or dysmorphic disorders? Like so many mental health problems, building a culture where people feel safe to talk about their experiences is key. In the Time to Change Champion’s Storybook, a woman named Stacy shares her experience of living with anorexia. She says that gentle reassurance from a senior colleague helped her on her first steps to recovery. “So please, don’t be afraid to offer support if you’re concerned about someone,” she says. “They may or may not accept your help, but I can guarantee that they will appreciate the offer.”

Anxiety disorders affect around 6.6% of the English population every week

Another common mental health problem that can be overlooked for men is anxiety​Workplace anxiety and work-related anxiety Web page Anxiety can be caused by issues inside or outside the workplace, and it's worth employers making efforts to look out for signs that an employee might need support. This page from Acas has a range of tips.Free By: Acas View resource. Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions, affecting around 6.6% of the English population every week, according to No Panic. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety as men. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that men experience less anxiety – just that they aren’t getting the diagnosis they might need to feel better.

Thankfully, there are many resources available to help your organisation create a culture that helps men feel supported and listened to. Building Mental Health Building Mental Health Building Mental Health pulls together thinking and best practice around mental health in the construction industry. View organisation’s video on Starting the conversation in construction​Starting the conversation in construction Video Sometimes a quick video is a great way to get people talking about mental health. These four focus on construction, from recognising warning signs to where to go for help.Free By: Mace Group View resource explores the issues and challenges around mental health in a male-dominated field, and can be a good place to start. Time to Change Time to Change Time to Change is a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health. View organisation has a range of different materials, such as postcards and activity packs, that can get people talking and sharing their experience in a pressure-free environment.

It is important to remember that poor mental health can affect anyone. But challenging our perceptions about who is affected, and how, we can start to develop a comprehensive wellness strategy that includes everyone.

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