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How should employers support male employees with their mental health?

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The stats on men’s health tell a striking story. Men have a lower life expectancy than women, and around 20% of men die before retiring. In under 50s, suicide is the most common cause of death, with men accounting for three-quarters of UK suicides.

To mark Men’s Health Week, Westfield Health gives employers advice on creating a culture where men feel comfortable speaking up about health issues, explores ways workplaces can help break the stigma around men’s mental health, and how employers can support their male employees.

Working toward breaking the stigma

In Great Britain, almost 70% of people have never visited a mental health professional. Despite this, men’s health issues, including mental health, can be treated effectively if caught early.

Communication is vital. Employees will see the most benefit from policy and culture changes, but managers and colleagues can help increase understanding by challenging some common myths around mental health and worrisome symptoms.

Men are not always comfortable being open about their mental health, so it is essential to have a workforce that encourages wellbeing discussions. Hosting webinars to educate and present the available support is an excellent way to ensure employees are aware of their options.

Employers should also get feedback from their people, including pulse surveys, one-to-one chats and focus groups. This can show them what changes need to be made and what support would be beneficial.

How our perceptions of mental health are changing

Across the nation, more employees are taking days off to look after their mental health. In 2021, nearly a third (31%) of UK employees took time off work due to mental health; this indicates that people are more in-tune with their personal well-being and feel more comfortable taking time out to look after their mental wellbeing.

As attitudes towards mental health change, employers must adapt their approach to employee wellbeing. The good news is that most of workers (68%) think employers are more aware of mental health issues now, and with this awareness comes an expectation for businesses to offer robust support for their people.

The past two years have created a shift in what we deem as important to us. More than half the workforce (52%) plans to focus their energy on their loved ones in the coming months.

This supports the research highlighted that well-being initiatives such as flexible and remote working help make returning to work more manageable, easing any stress and pressure those struggling with mental health may be facing. With that in mind, a quarter of employees (25%) also admitted to wanting more mental health support.

The support employers can provide

An excellent way to support employees is by scheduling regular catch-ups with line managers to ensure workloads are manageable and isn’t too overwhelming.

Men are less likely to visit their GP; common reasons were being too busy, lack of discussion or inability to take time off work. Ensuring work policies allow employees to put their health first is a great way to promote doctor visits when concerns arise.

For physical health, such as prostate or testicular cancer, employers can organise team building days, similar to Movember, to help raise awareness and open discussions. Having senior team members and managers be transparent about their mental and physical health will help your teams feel like they can be open and honest too.

Employers should also consider training mental health first aiders that can offer employees someone to turn to when they’re struggling. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation to supporting them to get appropriate help. It builds an open and supportive workplace culture, especially if employees don’t feel comfortable talking to their manager.

When employees know there’s somebody to go to, it can help prevent symptoms from getting any worse and allow for faster recovery.

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