3 Ways to Cultivate Men's Mental Health within the Workplace

In 2000, Australia joined in celebrating the Men's Health Week. More than celebrating men's health and what it means to be healthy, Australia also provides a platform to celebrate men's strengths, the contributions they make and the critical role they play in society.

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  • Recognising men's health is a critical issue and that there are health issues that only affect men

  • Promoting awareness of men's approach to health

  • Changing the way health care is provided to be more sensitive towards men's needs

  • Creating school and community programs that target boys and young men

  • Connecting health and social policies to pursue men's health goals better To recognise how healthcare, particularly mental health, is provided towards men's needs, we'll talk about cultivating a psychologically and mentally safe workplace for men. 1. Break the barriers down For centuries, men are expected to be strong and stoic. They were being taught that "real men" are supposed to cover up their feelings. To achieve that, they hide their feelings by ignoring or denying them. Resulting in men are not being comfortable with feeling their emotions and having low self-awareness of their mental health. According to Beyond Blue, on average, one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. On average, men make up seven out of every nine suicides that happen daily within Australia. This is nearly double the national road toll. [2] In another interview with Melissa Abu-Gazaleh, CEO of the Top Blokes Foundation (an organisation that helps young men become positive role models), she said: "We know that one of the biggest reasons why men don't seek help for their mental health is around the stigma. If we can all support reducing the stigma and normalising seeking help and speaking up, then in the long term we are going to see better results. When we talk to young men about mental health, their literacy in the area is so high. They understand the symptoms of depression and they know what it looks like. The next step is to make sure they have the right skills and they know how to access support when they or their friends need help." [7] Now the question is, how can we break the stigma and provide the adequate support that they deserve? Organisations need to encourage employees to talk about mental health openly. They have to emphasise that it is not a taboo topic. Additionally, there should be company policies and procedures about mental health that support employees. Andrew Jewell, principal lawyer at employment law firm McDonald Murholme says, "By having a process in place, it not only assists the employer in dealing with the matter appropriately but also gives employees confidence in knowing that there is support, should they need it." He also advises, "An employee is not legally obliged to disclose any mental health issues they are having, and employers must respect privacy and anti-discrimination legislation such as the Fair Work Act 2009," he says. [3] Having the policies and procedures is just the initial step. Employees must know that these policies exist. In a study entitled "State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia" by Beyond Blue, sadly, 35% of employees don't know the policies, procedures or practices that support mental health in their workplace exists. [4] Here are some doable ways to effectively communicate company policies and procedures:

  1. Conduct staff meeting to announce policy updates, existing policies that need reinforcement etc.

  2. Post a memo on company bulletin boards/portals so employees can easily see them.

  3. Hand out print out copies to employees and/or soft copies through email

  4. Provided training or meeting, if needed.

  5. Make your employees sign off on company policy and procedures.

  6. Lead by example

2. Leaders walk the talk Show support and guidance to the younger men. Lead by example as people take more notice of what you DO rather than what you say! Turn words into action—share personal stories and how you got through it. If you want others to be open about Mental Health, you have to be open too! Being open about mental health is not a sign of weakness. A research study entitled Beyond Male Role Model found that people in senior roles act more as a mentor or guide than role models. "The young men's personal growth developed through an active process of negotiation, rather than passive transmission, of values and behaviour between workers and young men." Moreover, these young men valued their mentor's character than their gender or social identities. One of their participants said: "You just know you can trust them … you can always rely on them." [5]

3. How to ask for help The last step in creating a mentally and psychologically safe workplace is to know when to ask for help or how to ask for help. The stigma is more challenging to deal with than the problem itself because it stops people from getting the support they need and deserve. Here are the common reasons why men (and some women) refuse to get help:

  • Embarrassed that they should be able to sort it out themselves.

  • Sense of failing

  • Feel alone in it all and that they are the only one going through it

  • The problem will define them.

  • What others will think of them

I encourage our clients to share stories. Share pathways of what help they got and the outcomes. This gives people a sense of 'it's not just me' and hope. Sharing your EAP number, sharing what it would look like to be calling them and address any objections you think people may have about calling them. There can be many simple ways to create a mentally healthy workplace. Once you understand what is happening within your business, you can tailor-make a simple solution to support your colleagues. When we start working with companies, they are doing things to improve the well-being of their team. However, they are addressing the symptoms, not the cause. That's why they feel they keep going around in circles with little longevity in positive change. Suppose you would like to know how to make a positive impact within your business. To improve your team's mental well-being that's tailor-made to your team and progress you can test and measure, contact us today on 1300 114 818 for a private and confidential conversation or email us at info@proactiveaction.co. We look forward to talking to you soon.

Further reading:

  1. https://www.menshealthweek.org.au/

  2. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men

  3. https://www.hrmonline.com.au/how-tos/mens-mental-health-employees/

  4. https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report---tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8

  5. https://theconversation.com/you-dont-have-to-be-male-to-be-a-role-model-for-men-71296

  6. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men/taking-action

  7. https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2018/10/turning-young-men-top-blokes


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