There has long existed a stigma around mental health issues and seeking support for them. While a more open dialogue around mental health has helped reduce this, the subject remains taboo for many, especially men.
Research from Time to Change, a previous mental health campaign, found that only a quarter of men would tell their male friends if they were struggling with their mental health, with many not wanting to appear a burden.
The mental health context
Men are also less likely to try to access psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of referrals to NHS IAPT psychological services being for men.
A comparison with ONS statistics reporting that 76% of suicide victims are male would appear to indicate that a great number of men are not coming forward to seek help.
In the context of the evidence that men are less likely to share their mental health issues, it’s perhaps not surprising that data from the ONS 2020 Labour Force Survey on the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression, or anxiety by gender showed that female workers had significantly higher rates than male workers.
The issue of mental health has risen up the agenda in recent years, with the pandemic increasing the number of people suffering from depression, stress, and anxiety.
With the uncertainties around COVID-19, the shift to lockdowns and working from home, and the changes and additional strains on staff, employers have become increasingly proactive in supporting and helping their staff to manage their mental health.
Further, the benefits to staff of implementing effective workplace wellbeing policies and programmes have been highlighted, as has the value to organisations.
Workplace mental health support
A significant proportion of our time is spent at work or working remotely, and pressures from work can have a direct impact on our mental wellbeing.
Healthy work environments help people to flourish, both at work and home. A key element of creating positive workplaces is to nurture open lines of communication, helping to foster a safe environment, promote a positive culture, and allow people to feel comfortable to reach out if they are struggling.
With men’s reluctance to open up if they are having issues, it can help them do so when it is part of an organisation’s culture. The sharing of personal stories by managers and other colleagues can provide a powerful way of letting people know they are not alone and can help break down the barriers around discussing mental health.
Likewise, senior leaders visibly engaging with mental wellbeing initiatives helps to reduce stigma and boost engagement. Managers making clear that their doors are always open for people to discuss any struggles they are having is important, as it clearly signposts the available support to team members.
With hybrid working becoming the prevalent model and individual staff spending different amounts of time in and out of the office, it’s important to ensure individuals’ varying levels of need and access to support are considered and catered for.
Providing meditation sessions for staff, on-premises or online, can help allow them to make time to focus on their wellbeing, providing wide-ranging benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety, and fatigue, better emotional wellbeing, increased attention span, and improved sleep.
Encouraging physical activity and spending time amongst nature and green spaces during break times or outside working hours can provide significant improvements. Just ten minutes of brisk walking can improve mental alertness and boost mood.
Meditating and getting active are simple but effective things that can be done privately if men are struggling to share when they are having issues with their mental health.
Mental wellbeing apps and digital therapeutics
Enforced home working and social distancing meant that interest in and adoption of digital tools to support mental health grew dramatically.
Mental wellbeing apps and clinically proven digital therapeutics (DTx) have many benefits. They can continue to effectively support employees whether working in or out of the office or on a hybrid basis, plus provide valuable assistance to men who are reluctant to come forward seeking help.
They can also help reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health support by allowing people to sign-up discreetly and offer ease of access and 24/7 availability, meaning they can be completed at an individual’s own pace.
There is a wide range of digital tools catering to needs across the mental health spectrum. Guided meditation apps that help people relax and improve their sleep can be especially useful for those new to meditating and having trouble switching off from their busy minds.
For team members experiencing depression and more chronic levels of stress or anxiety, DTx can provide an effective intervention without the need to see a therapist face-to-face.
DTx products are clinically proven, with some being provided through the NHS, and can teach life-long skills to deliver long-term reductions in levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Fostering positive outcomes
Offering discreet digital tools provides an opportunity for men who are reluctant to share their issues or feel like they would be a burden on friends, families, or colleagues to obtain effective support.
Fostering open and inclusive cultures around staff mental wellbeing helps prevent and alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety. It also helps create positive work environments that can reinforce good mental wellbeing and allow individuals and the organisations they work for to thrive.
By Richard Latham, CEO of Wellmind Health, a firm that delivers effective digital therapeutics for pain management and mental health support to the NHS.