This month we focus our attention on Men’s Health in light of International Men’s Day on the 19th of November, as well as Movember. Both campaigns raise awareness of health challenges men can face including mental health struggles, suicide, terminal illness and cancer diagnosis. All of these issues can affect our mental health and wellbeing in some way.
PAM Wellbeing’s EAP Counsellor, Joe Dore, has given us an insight into the importance of raising awareness and breaking the stigma of men’s mental health.
A metaphor that is often used to explain mental health is the cup of water analogy. In the story, the teacher holds a glass of water out in front of him and asks his students how much the glass weighs. After the students give a variety of different answers, the Teacher explains that it doesn’t matter how much it weighs, what matters most is how long you hold on to it for. If you hold the glass out in front of you all day long, then eventually your arm will feel numb and paralysed.
The premise of the metaphor is that the longer you hold onto something, the heavier it gets. Men can be very familiar with holding onto their problems. Men tend to hide their pain/difficulties. They do not want to admit that they are struggling.
Why is that? There is a stereotype that men are supposed to be tough. There is a societal expectation that men internalise their problems. Peer pressure and pride mean that men can suppress their emotions and try to be more self-reliant. Men can face both self-stigma and social stigma about showing their emotions or talking about their stresses and anxieties.
Research by Harvard Business Review suggests that Men use 3 main maladaptive ways of coping with this.
- Escapism by using Alcohol or Substance abuse or other addictive type activities
- Withdrawal by avoiding social situations or avoiding taking on new challenges
- Externalisation by having poor impulse control, irritability or engaging in anti-social behaviour
Men are 3 times more likely than women to end their own lives. In 2018 there were 6,507 suicides in the UK. In a survey of 1,000 men in the UK carried out by the Priory, 32% of men identified work pressure to be the main cause of their mental health struggles.
It is important for men to reflect on what thoughts come up when someone mentions the phrase “Mental Health”. It may be a good time for some men to reframe support seeking as a sign of strength, of taking responsibility, of being assertive and proactive about their wellbeing. Using a sports analogy, good mental health is generally a team game, it’s not supposed to be all down to one player to shoulder all the responsibility.
5 tips for men who are struggling with their mental health;
- Find a trusted confidant – Find one person you can open up to if you’re struggling. It starts with one conversation.
- Maintain a routine – Write down a wellbeing plan for yourself in the same way you might have a fitness plan from a personal trainer. Include things like exercise, hobbies, box breathing exercises, meeting up with a friend and reading.
- Learn a new skill – research shows that learning something new or taking up a new hobby can boost happiness, release dopamine and boost confidence over time. Making progress on learning a new skill is great for mental wellbeing and improves brain health also.
- Utilise the available support – Phone your EAP 24/7 helpline and speak to a Counsellor and get the support that you need. The Counsellors will be supportive and non-judgemental.
- Speak to your manager or mental health first aider if you are struggling at work – Sometimes it can ease the pressure just to have that conversation and make them aware of your situation. You may already have ideas about how the situation could improve.
PAM Wellbeing offer services that focus on men’s wellbeing, including our specialist training on men’s mental health. Speak to us today to explore how our tailored training, helpline and counselling services can effectively support and empower your people.