International Men’s Day: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

          November 19, 2019

          RACHEL SEDGWICK

          JDX is proud to be celebrating International Men’s Day today. A day designed to focus on men and boy’s health, improving gender relations and gender equality and promoting basic humanitarian values. We can hardly have failed to notice the amount of attention men’s mental health is getting currently, and so wanted to pause and reflect on mental health for men, why it’s a problem and what we can do in the workplace to improve things.

          Yes, but is it really a problem?

          Evidence indicates that it is. The chart below shows the most common mental health illnesses, along with women Vs men who are diagnosed in the UK. We can see that far more women are diagnosed than men (around 21% more women are diagnosed with Mixed Anxiety and Depression, 32% more women diagnosed with Anxiety and 16% more diagnosed with depression).

          Bear in mind that this data relies on diagnosed disorders; not how many men or women might be suffering, but how many feel able to seek help.

          Contrast this with how many men Vs women are diagnosed with alcohol or drug disorders. We can see that men are 44% more likely to suffer from alcohol addiction and 32% more likely to suffer from drug addiction. This indicates a reliance from men on self-medication, leading to potentially devastating results- 76% of suicides in the UK are committed by men.

          It is widely accepted that societal gender norms promote an ideology that men should be “tough” and “fearless”, and that this complicates the issue as many men feel they are not a “man” if they show any sign of weakness.

          Men may fail to recognise or act on warning signs and may be unwilling or unable to seek help.

          How can we help?

          1. Remove pressure- Without realising we can use language and assign tasks that put unnecessary stress on men and the idea of ‘manliness’. At JDX we believe gender equality needs to support and protect both genders, and so we designed and rolled out unconscious bias training- open to all staff, and mandatory for all managers, so that our staff are more aware of the decisions they’re making and use of language. And so that they are empowered to call people out when we believe a decision or process is biased.

           

          1. Training on mental health- The most important thing we can do is raise awareness. At JDX we designed and rolled out mental health training for all managers so that managers can better identify signs of someone suffering from poor mental health and understand how to best approach and support them. A manager picking up on symptoms and not being too scared to talk to someone, could literally be the difference between life and death.

           

          1. Provide and publicise safe ways in which they can talk- We say too often that ‘men don’t talk about these things’, but maybe it is more that they aren’t given the opportunities to talk about them? Men are less likely to visit their GP than women, and so it is essential that we reflect on our workplaces and benefits and whether they are equipped to support someone needing help. For example, do you have an employee assistance programme, and is this well advertised and used? Do you offer access to a Doctor or private health care, and does this include counselling support if required? Do you promote a culture where people can be vulnerable even at senior positions, and your staff feel safe? Do you have a trained mental health first aider on site?

           

          None of these things on their own will solve the overriding problem with men and mental health, but if we do our best as employers to protect and support men, we believe we can make a real difference.

           

           

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