November shines a spotlight on men's mental health and for good reason too. Men are susceptible to poor mental health, just the same as women, but sadly still feel uncomfortable in reaching out for help. Is that a stereotypical judgement I have made there? I'm not a guy so can't put myself in a guy's shoes but something isn't working as statistics around men's mental health paint a concerning picture.
I am keen to learn more about men's mental health and talk to more guys about their perceptions of mental health, asking them what different approaches they feel could be taken to get them talking more and reaching out for help. I'm aware that I have a female unconscious bias approach and as a mental health first aider, wife and mother to a son, I am mindful I could be creating barriers. I procrastinated with writing this blog and I came to realise it was because I just don't feel qualified to talk about men's mental health as a women. I decided to reach out to Adolfo Comas, (Trade Brand Ambassador) at Bacardi Martini Ltd to ask him for his perspective of men's mental health instead.
1. A survey, the largest of its kind, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, found that men who have had mental health problems are not only less likely than women to have sought medical support for their problem, they are also less likely to tell friends and family when a problem develops. This seems to confirm the generalisation that men are less comfortable talking about their feelings? Is this the general vibe you get from your male counterparts and if so, why do you think that is?
I don’t feel this is necessarily true. In my experience and with my male colleagues we have a very open-door policy available to us at work, giving us the opportunity to talk about any mental wellbeing or mental health concerns. We have a rich benefits package which is focused on the individual needs and as part of that package we have access to speak to specialist people, either internally or externally. For us it is not only about having someone who will support us and we can talk to but also our working environment. For example, we have a gym and restaurant facility on site, with regular updates from our senior leadership teams so we all feel informed about what is happening in the business. In addition to this and given the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, during COVID, we have also had virtual coffee mornings or team drinks in the evening after work. In my place of employment, we all feel supported, men and women equally.
2. I have been reflecting on the fact that a 'one size fits all' approach almost never actually does. With men three times more likely to die by suicide than women(2), clearly a different approach is needed to encourage men to talk about their struggles and seek help. A simple conversation can be the catalyst for change but how can we get more males into those conversations? From a male perspective, what could we do differently to create more open environments for men to reach out?
Creating an informal space for people outside of the work environment giving them the chance to raise any concerns would help. Often it is not only to raise any mental wellbeing challenges but also just to engage with their colleagues, for example going for a walk in the park, enjoying a pint after work or a breakfast coffee. It is also about the line manager proactively making an effort to go and engage with their team, rather than just grabbing a quick coffee in a communal work space.
3. Have you ever experienced poor mental health yourself and if so, what helped you through that?
No, fortunately I have not. I am lucky to have a good support system around me.
4. As an advocate for wellbeing in the workplace, what would you say to any male (and female) colleagues who may be reading this whilst silently dealing with a mental health worry?
It is important to be clear on your priorities. To use Stephen Covey’s analogy put the rocks in the jar first, then the pebbles, sand and water, rather than filing the jar with water and then trying to squeeze everything in after. Priorities for each person will be different, for some it maybe family, others it might be paying the mortgage, etc. Whatever it is for you then make sure you make time for that first and then remove the things that don’t matter. Worry about the things that you can control and seek support from someone you trust where you need it.
Thank you Dolf for taking the time out to share your thoughts with us.
Instead of telling our amazing men to 'Man Up' we need to raise them up and let them know it's ok to not be ok. Tell them they don't need to put a brave face on things, but can be brave in coming forward and seeking help.
If you or someone you know might need help, here are some resources you can call on:
Check out your company Employee Assistant Programme if you have one
Visit your GP
Call the Samaritans - 116 123
Talking Therapies (NHS Service), visit: MyOnlineService.com to find out more details.
2. Office for National Statistics. Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations [Internet]. 2019. [cited 2020 Jan 6] Available from: ons.gov.uk