In our exclusive Q&A session, Andy White, Head of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) at PAM Wellbeing, dives into the critical aspects of men’s mental health, the significance of seeking help and the pivotal role initiatives like Movember play in raising awareness.
What are the common challenges men face with their mental health?
The common challenges men have faced and continue to face with their mental health, is the fear of stigma, shame, societal expectations and pressure put on them, preventing many men from coming forward and discussing their concerns.
Often resulting in low-level issues building up over time, leading to increased levels of anxiety, depression, irritability, anger, aggression, fatigue, obsessive overthinking, restlessness and difficulty focusing, leading to reaching a crisis point.
Many men feel stigmatised discussing their mental health openly, especially when socialising or working in male-centric environments, as they feel it is a weakness that others may judge them.
Men may then be more likely to use alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms, to cope with their depression, rather than talking it through, further compounding matters.
Why is it important for men to prioritise their mental health and how does this impact their overall wellbeing?
It is important to really prioritise mental health for men, due to the much higher risk of suicide ideation. In 2021 there were 5,583 recorded suicides in England and Wales, with around three-quarters of them being males. Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under the age of 50.
With just 7% of men prioritising their own mental health and around 15% of men never wanting to talk about their mental health, it is more important than ever to break the stigma and challenges men face in opening up and preventing reaching crisis point.
Mental health and physical health are linked, with both impacting each other. It’s just as vital to take care of your mental health, preventing or limiting the risk of increased chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.
How can friends, family and workplaces support men with health and wellbeing concerns?
It is important to create safe boundaries to encourage men to open up about their mental health when they feel comfortable. This approach helps them to overcome the obstacles previously mentioned, stigma and societal pressures.
Friends, family and co-workers can play a vital role in supporting men, just by letting them know you are there as a listening ear can be invaluable. They may not wish to talk there and then, but knowing they have somebody around who can listen, in a non-judgemental way, can support men in taking the next steps they need in seeking professional help.
What role do Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) play in supporting men’s health?
There has been a big shift over the past couple of years with men reaching out for support and contacting their EAP. This is due to greater awareness through campaigns such as Movember, raising awareness of men’s mental health, which has helped to remove the barriers of stigma and normalise the need for and importance of speaking up when needing to.
EAPs play a vital role in fully understanding the key challenges men face, creating a safe space to help offload and discuss any personal or work-related issues, with highly trained, experienced counsellors, who can provide coping strategies and mechanisms, supporting the reduction of the overall levels of anxiety or depression presented.
What advice would you give to men who are struggling and are hesitant to reach out?
Be brave and take the first step, speak with a friend, family member, colleague, your line manager, or HR manager, or contact your EAP, whoever you feel most comfortable speaking with.
The first step can be quite daunting, but you will find reaching out to your EAP provider, will find a non-judgmental, supportive response and at a level and pace you are happy with.
What do you do personally to support your mental wellbeing?
I like to keep myself busy, but balanced, work and life balance in measure is key to maintaining my own mental health. I recognise the need to take time out for myself and blowing the cobwebs off really helps me to recharge and refresh. Taking my border terriers out for long walks enables me time to reflect and have conversations in my own mind.
I do like to challenge myself by taking on board new hobbies, or new DIY projects, learning new skills or talents which may have been dormant, gives me a sense of purpose and pride. Most importantly, I try to not take things too literally or seriously all the time, and I have learnt to let the small stuff go.
Have you noticed any changes in attitude towards men’s health in recent years?
Studies have shown that men are now accessing mental health support more than ever, with more than 50% of men stating they would be happy to speak to their G.P. about their mental health, including seeing an increase with men now three times more likely to see a therapist, than a decade ago.
Whilst there has been a change in attitude towards men’s health in recent years, there is still plenty more work to do. It is important to continue to challenge any negative beliefs, attitudes and stereotypes of masculinity, and promote greater awareness of services that men can access to improve their mental and physical health.
How can initiatives like ‘Movember’ contribute to raising awareness about men’s health?
Movember and other initiatives are invaluable in raising awareness of the various health issues men face and the positive impacts of taking early action and seeking intervention and support.
Just one of many initiatives that have helped raise awareness of men’s health and helped set up over 1,250 men’s health projects globally since launching in 2003. This initiative challenges the status quo and encourages employers to engage with campaigns within their organisations to support men in the workplace and beyond.
Over recent years, greater awareness of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention has saved tens of thousands of lives, needless to mention the heartbreak that has been prevented for thousands of families.
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.