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How to break the stigma around men’s mental health

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The high personal and organizational costs of neglecting mental health are being discussed in workplaces more than ever. Yet a stark gender disparity exists—men are less likely to seek support for their emotional well-being than women due to numerous cultural and systemic factors. As an organization, you can combat stigma and create a psychologically safe workplace that encourages male-identifying team members to share openly when they’re struggling with their mental health.

Factors that prevent men from seeking support

From an early age, we’re exposed to societal norms, cultural values, and expectations that influence how we express and interpret our feelings.

“Historically, the way men are socialized means that they have less direct education and training in identifying, labeling, and communicating their internal emotional states,” said Matthew Jakupcak, Ph.D., senior director of clinical quality at Lyra Health. 

Symptoms are as diverse as the men who experience them

Because mental health symptoms present differently in men than women, it can be difficult to recognize when men are struggling.

Externalization: Men may experience changes in energy level or mood that gareexpressed as irritability, anger, or aggression.

Deflection: Whether it’s overindulging in alcohol or recreational activities like video games or after-work sports, men may try to relieve stress by engaging in behaviors they believe help to “take their mind off things.”

Social withdrawal: Skipping team activities or limiting social contact with co-workers can be a way men minimize pressure to talk about what they’re feeling.

Workaholism: Some men try to cope with their declining mental health by doubling down on their job performance, putting in longer hours to avoid distress in other parts of their lives.

Making matters more complicated, some of these behaviors can be perceived as desirable in the workplace. Overwork may be rewarded with praise or promotions, aggression may be viewed as a passion for their role and social withdrawal may be seen as laser focus. This is why it’s important for managers to foster a healthy work environment that encourages employees to speak openly about how they’re feeling.

How common are mental health issues in men?

6.2% of men have had a major depressive episode in the past year, 14.3% of men experience an anxiety disorder, and men are twice as likely to binge drink as a consequence of a substance use disorder.

Breaking the stigma at work

Managers are in a unique position to set the tone for mental health discussions at work. Here are some tips to build a more supportive culture within your workplace.

  1. Make mental health a routine part of your workweek by giving your team 10 minutes at the end of the week to check on their stress levels.
  2. Make mental health more relatable by using terms like “checkups” and “preventative maintenance”.
  3. Try reframing difficulties in terms men can relate to—like “burnout” and “pressure”.
  4. Listen for signs someone is ready to talk. Let them lead the conversation and refrain from judgment as they share what’s on their mind.

Personalized support for the men in your organization

A high-quality mental health benefit is an essential tool for both employees and managers. Simply having one signals that mental health is something your organization takes seriously. But, for your male employees to get the most out of it, make sure your mental health benefit includes the following:

Break the silence in your workplace

Companies that prioritize their employees’ mental health and well-being experience less attrition and greater profitability. By creating a safe space for men to share what they’re going through and following up with high-quality support options, you can help break the stigma and empower men to get the help they need. To find out more about Lyra’s personalized care and tools to build a culture of mental wellness, request a demo.

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