Men are suffering from increased levels of work-related mental issues. Normalisation of mental health issues and adequate support may help to combat this problem.
Work is the cause of mental distress for men a lot more often than it is for women. In a mental health survey, mental health charity Mind in the UK, has found that 32 per cent of men questioned cited work as the cause of mental anxiety, as opposed to 19 per cent of women. The number of women who attributed their mental health issues to work was the same as those who said that their problems were due to things going on outside of work.
Unfortunately, while men suffer more mental distress around their job than women, fewer felt comfortable discussing these problems in the workplace. They were also less likely to take time off from work to recuperate. The survey showed that while 38 per cent of women felt supported by their workplace culture, only 31 per cent of men felt the same. A lot more women took time off to manage their mental health (43 per cent) compared to 29 per cent of men.
Why are men more likely to suffer work-related mental health issues?
There are a variety of reasons why men are experiencing increased levels of work-related mental issues, says Oliver Brecht, President of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Australasia (EAPAA). These could be the industry they work in, the workplace culture they experience, and how their identity is drawn.
“If a person’s primary focus is their work, they are placing a giant magnifying glass on this area of their life, rather than someone who has a more balanced perspective.” The stigma around men discussing their issues is another contributing factor, says Brecht. “Men tend to bottle up their issues rather than talking them through and seeking assistance, which can lead them to feel trapped in regards to their mental health.”
Supporting men in the workplace
Brecht says understanding men’s health is a crucial social issue at the moment, due to the high rates of male suicide in Australia. BeyondBlue mentions suicide rates appear higher in some male-dominated industries such as agriculture, transport and construction.
Talking about mental health and bringing the issue to the forefront is one thing, but Brecht says there now needs to be action. He says resources should be made available to provide assistance to those who aren’t coping, such as EAPs and flexible working hours. Treating mental health struggles as a normal everyday issue rather than an admission of failure will make it easier for men to come forward with their problems.
Brecht says men can be more likely to question themselves and internalise their struggles in the workplace without seeking clarification. Encouraging an environment where issues can be openly discussed and the resources linked in to provide techniques and support to those in need. All employees should feel valued, validated and supported in the workplace, says Brecht.
Why role-models are essential
Acceptance and normalisation of mental health issues in workplace culture should trickle down from the top, says Brecht. Men in senior roles should provide guidance and act as role models for their younger counterparts by bringing mental health issues to the forefront. Brecht says management should stress the importance of work/life balance and share their methods for success and coping with stress, failure and their workload.
Leading by example and being open about their own mental health experiences would work towards young men understanding that it is not a sign of weakness.
Learn more about workplace mental health issues at AHRI’s Inclusion and Diversity conference in Canberra (26 October) and Melbourne (2 November).