The day-to-day stresses associated with providing for a family and holding down a job can take their toll on men both mentally and physically. This happens to women too of course, but the difference is that men tend to “bottle it” more than women.
This week is Men’s Health Week, which serves as a timely reminder for male employees and those around them to encourage a healthy work/life balance.
Acknowledging your mental health at work
It is often the case that men are more reluctant than their female counterparts to seek medical assistance to deal with work related mental health issues.
Medical research shows that stress at work can accelerate the development of various conditions and diseases, such as prostate cancer or low testosterone in men. The 2013 Journal of Clinical Investigation report highlights the potential effects of workplace behavioural stress on prostate cancer in men, particularly on the effectiveness of drugs designed to fight the disease.
Recent data from employee assistance programs provider AccessEAP shows 33 per cent of Australian men list anxiety as their top personal issue, followed by 23 per cent listing depression.
As for workplace issues, 16 per cent of Australian men put stress at the top of their list, and 10 per cent listing career concerns as their number two.
It is therefore crucial for men to acknowledge the importance of their mental and physical health and to feel comfortable in reaching out to their employer when the demands of their job become too much.
What laws protect you as a male employee?
Employers have an obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to provide a safe working environment to employees.
As a result, an employer that places an employee under consistent pressure with an unreasonable workload or other such demands is not fulfilling this obligation.
Employees also have a right under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to take paid personal leave when they are unfit for work due to illness or injury. They do not need to provide the precise details of their illness if they do not feel comfortable in doing so.
Sick leave can be taken for both physical and mental illnesses as long as the absence is supported by a medical certificate confirming that the employee is unfit to attend work.
Men are often reluctant to reach out to their employer and explain the impact their workload may have on their health. They are also often reluctant to utilise their paid personal leave entitlements even when they are genuinely unfit for work as a result of work related stress or anxiety.
How to start the conversation
AccessEAP outlines some tips to help men reach out in times of need:
- Take action sooner rather than later. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today when it comes to mental health.
- Seeking help is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness.Maintain social contact, keep in touch with family and friends.
- Make self-care a priority. Set goals for sleep, exercise and ‘me’ time. You can’t look after those around you if you can’t look after yourself.
- Remember that the best health can be achieved with looking after both your physical and mental health. See your GP for regular check ups and address health issues if and when they present.
- Ask for support. Challenging life events happen to us all at some point, and no one is immune.