Men’s mental health in the workplace is a difficult and sensitive topic to address.
While sometimes it is difficult for anyone to talk about mental health, men especially struggle to talk about mental health at work versus outside of work with family or friends. While there is a stereotype that men do not talk about their feelings and emotions, many men believe that their job would be at risk or they would be overlooked for a job promotion if they even mentioned a mental health problem at work.
Because of the stigma about mental health issues such as depression and anxiety being character flaws or a result of not “manning up,” many men are worried that their colleagues or peers would make negative comments behind their backs if they shared about their mental health, especially if it was related to their work, work environment, or relationships with those they work with. But it’s normal to struggle. Even starting a new job can be one of the most stressful things you can do, resulting in episodes of worry, fear, and even panic for many men.
Men living with stress and anxiety about their career can feel like they are walking on eggshells all the time, leaving lasting effects on both physical and mental health, especially if experienced over a period of weeks or months.
Physical health issues that can arise include:
Mental health issues that can arise include:
So he’s already worried, anxious, nervous, and distracted, and the normal stress responses above can then impact the quality of his work, making the whole situation much, much worse.
And it’s not just in his head. Working in environments where leadership is top-down can be intimidating, as a fear of losing one’s job is seen as the primary motivator. A workplace with an environment that is more collaborative is less intimidating and the primary motivator is on contribution versus fear.
As well, there is a lot of pressure related to the stereotype that men should always be working even when coping with significant mental health issues, and fear is the primary reason why men hesitate to take time off of work for self-care or for counselling/therapy.
In performance-driven workplaces, accommodations are often made for physical health issues such as breaking an arm or getting the flu, but accommodations are often not made for mental health issues, nor are they normalized. Some workplaces are recognizing the need for mental health supports, as research has shown that maintaining positive mental health is important for increased work performance, production, and job satisfaction. Unfortunately though, it usually takes a crisis, like a particularly bad week at work, an argument with a colleague or a conflict with an employer, that motivates men (and managers) to address the issues.
If workplaces and society in general could be more inclusive and supportive to men’s mental health challenges, it is likely that the barriers to proactively managing stress would fall away, and it would be much more normal seeking out support from a therapist for mental health concerns before those issues become debilitating. By seeking out mental health support earlier, physical health concerns and time off of work can sometimes be avoided entirely.
The fact is that suicide remains the leading cause of death for Canadian men under the age of 44, and research has also identified that men are more likely to complete suicide than women and are less likely to reach out for support as a result of misconceptions or stereotypes. Men’s mental health is important, especially in the workplace, and is a protective factor for preventing suicide.
Since work creates a sense of purpose and the role of “earner” is so often connected to a man’s identity, it is essential for workplaces to talk about mental health and men’s mental health in particular, in order to destigmatize these issues and facilitate early intervention in the workplace.
Silence puts men at risk of leaving their mental health issues unresolved and untreated.
Reminding managers, employees, and yourself that men’s mental health matters, is essential and beneficial to absolutely everyone nowadays. And while it is encouraged to be open and to talk about these issues without judgment, it is vital that managers respect the anonymity of the employees when coming forward with mental health issues, creating awareness, and providing adequate resources within the workplace.
If you are anyone you know needs to talk, please contact us today to speak with a licensed mental health professional. You are not alone.
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