Men's health has long been obscured by societal expectations and stereotypes, often leaving men feeling unsupported and vulnerable. However, Movember and International Men's Day present us with a unique opportunity to change this narrative. While these observances raise awareness about health issues, they also celebrate men's contributions to our lives and society.
It's essential to recognise that all genders experience challenges. Yes, these challenges may be very different, and yes some genders may benefit from advantages in some areas of life compared to others, but if we are truly going to hold ourselves accountable to the idea of gender inclusion, we need to consider the experiences of men, as well as those of women and non binary genders. Despite white men holding most leadership positions and decision-making power globally, nearly 70% feel “forgotten” by diversity and inclusion efforts. This sentiment can lead to disengagement and marginalisation from the very efforts that aim to foster equity.
To dive deeper into this conversation, let’s consider the insights of Tony Porter from his poignant TED talk. Trigger warning: this video contains references to sexual assault.
Porter challenges us to step outside of the “man box” of traditional masculinity that often suppresses men’s emotional wellbeing. His personal anecdotes highlight the importance of challenging outdated stereotypes, embracing vulnerability, and fostering mental health dialogues. His message underscores the need for a cultural shift in how we perceive and support men's emotional landscapes.
The problem: A closer look
The workplace can be a frontline for men's mental health advocacy, but current efforts often fall short. A study by Champion Health found that only 7% of male employees seek help for mental health issues, compared to 12% of female employees. This disparity suggests that many men are struggling in silence, feeling unable to access or seek support. The rising rate of suicide thoughts among employees, particularly under financial duress, further amplifies this crisis.
Research from ONS indicates that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, highlighting the urgent need for organisations to prioritise reducing the stigma surrounding male mental health in the workplace.
Movember: Beyond the moustache
Movember is a powerful initiative to raise awareness about pressing men's health issues, like mental health. It’s startling to note that over 700,000 people take their own lives each year, and in the UK, 115 people die by suicide every week, with 75% being male (ONS). Movember encourages men to be proactive about their health, urging regular check-ups and fostering open dialogues on mental well-being, which is crucial considering 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts (NHS Digital).
Celebrating International Men's Day
International Men's Day, observed on November 19th, builds on the awareness raised by Movember, spotlighting the significant contributions of men in society. This year's theme, "Zero Male Suicide" confronts the stark reality that men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. It emphasises the urgent need for candid conversations and strong support systems to address the high suicide rates, especially among men aged 45-49 who are at the greatest risk, as identified by Samaritans. The day is a call to action to cultivate open discussions, create supportive environments, and encourage men to seek help proactively.
5 ways workplaces can support men
Workplaces can play a pivotal role in transforming the approach to men's mental health. Here are five strategies to enact meaningful change:
Recognise men's contributions to the workplace: Celebrate men's achievements, promote men to leadership positions, ensure that men are compensated fairly for their work and nurture male employees' professional development
Promote work-life balance and paternity support: Advocate for policies that support fathers, such as flexible working hours and substantial paternity leave, and encourage open discussions about men's health and parenting responsibilities.
Offer mental health resources and support programs: This could include providing employees with access to confidential counselling services, offering workshops on mental health awareness and stress management, and creating a culture where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health challenges.
Challenge harmful stereotypes about men: Work towards dismantling harmful stereotypes about masculinity and parenting roles, fostering an environment where it's acceptable for men to express emotions and seek help.
Implement mental health awareness and training session: Conduct training sessions for managers and employees to raise awareness about mental health issues, including signs and symptoms, common struggles, and available support options.
For more resources on supporting men in the workplace:
- Gender Open Playbook resource - How employers can support gender equality
- Movember Conversations - Practical guidance on how to support men who might be struggling
- Movember UK Move toolkit UKMove toolkit guide
- Employers Guide to International Men's Day
- Download Free Men's Health Forum resources for your International Men's Day
- Male allies resource hub by everywoman