Addressing the Gender Gap: Empowering Men's Mental Health
In the past few years, a transformative shift has occurred in how men engage with their mental health.
Men often experience mental health issues differently from women in terms of how they perceive their own struggles and access support; consequently, their symptoms can go unnoticed and untreated, leading to tragic consequences. However, there is a glimmer of hope; in 2022, The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) conducted the Public Perceptions Survey, which interviewed the public on their views towards mental health, counselling and psychotherapy.
According to their findings, there has been a noticeable increase in men seeking support in recent years, perhaps due to the challenges imposed by the pandemic pushing men to a tipping point where they recognise the urgency of addressing their mental wellbeing. In 2019, the UK mental health charity, Mind found that men are now three times more likely to see a therapist if they struggle with their mental health compared to 2009. They also found that men are more inclined to seek support services when they can access them online, anonymously, or at a time that suits their schedule.
Despite shifting attitudes towards mental health, a gender gap remains in accessing support, with only 27% of men having been to therapy at some point in their life, compared to 39% of women. Everybody deserves access to mental health support, regardless of gender. However, to understand why men might struggle to reach out for help, we must unpack some of the most common barriers that can contribute to the stigma around male mental health. By acknowledging the truth of these challenges and approaching the topic with empathy and honesty, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive environment, empowering men to prioritise their mental health and ensuring they receive the support they deserve.
Within our society, men bear the weight of deeply ingrained societal expectations and traditional gender roles. From a young age, we socialise boys to embody traits such as strength, independence, and emotional 'toughness'. As they become adults, they may understand that these traits are not always necessary but still feel compelled to conceal their struggles, leading to a lack of acknowledgement and support.
Emotional Expression & Vulnerability
Unfortunately, our wider society frequently equates the open display of emotions in men with weakness, creating a fear of judgement or ridicule for those who choose to disclose their struggles. In doing this, we perpetuate a culture of silence, making it increasingly challenging for men to reach out and seek the support they genuinely need. We must challenge these stereotypes and foster a safe environment where men can freely share their experiences.
Loneliness, Social Isolation & Lack Of Community
Loneliness and social isolation often play a pivotal role in the mental health challenges faced by men. Various societal factors can make it difficult for men to establish and maintain meaningful connections; demands in the workplace, the pressure to appear self-reliant, and a lack of robust social support networks can contribute to feelings of isolation. There is a strong correlation between loneliness and poor mental health outcomes; by offering tailored support systems and emphasising the importance of fostering a sense of community, we can address the impact of loneliness on men's wellbeing.
Self-Esteem & Shame
Societal pressures and expectations significantly influence men's self-esteem, directly impacting their mental health. Men often face immense pressure to meet societal standards of success, physical appearance, and emotional strength. Struggling to live up to these expectations can give rise to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, shame and depression. Building healthy self-esteem is vital for men to nurture their mental wellbeing and empower them with the confidence to reach out for support when they need it.
Dismantling Stigma In The Workplace
As HR professionals, managers, and colleagues, we must proactively dismantle the stigma surrounding men's mental health by cultivating a supportive, inclusive workplace prioritising mental wellbeing.
To do this, we should:
Foster Open Communication
Promote a workplace culture that values mental health discussions and provides a non-judgmental platform for employees to openly share their concerns and experiences.
Implement Mental Health Training
Offer comprehensive training programs to HR professionals, managers, and leaders to enhance their understanding of the unique mental health challenges faced by men. Equip them with the necessary skills to support and guide employees towards available resources.
Lead by Example
As professionals, prioritising our mental health and openly sharing our experiences can create a safe space that encourages employees and colleagues to do the same, effectively breaking down the stigma and promoting overall wellbeing.
Implement Supportive Policies and Practices
Develop policies that stigmatise mental health concerns, introduce flexible work arrangements that accommodate individual needs, and provide access to resources.
Offer Direct Access to Support Services
Ensure your employees have convenient access to handpicked support services and accredited professionals, including therapists, counsellors, and coaches. Platforms like Kara Connect's Wellbeing Hub can connect employees with a network of qualified professionals offering confidential guidance and support for their psychological wellbeing, both as a preventive tool and as a treatment for ongoing mental health challenges. By facilitating direct access, you empower your employees to seek help conveniently and confidentially.
Creating a workplace environment that supports men's mental health is paramount. It requires us to acknowledge and challenge the societal pressures and gender roles that contribute to the stigma, allowing us to redefine expectations. To do this, we must address the barriers around emotional expression and vulnerability, combat feelings of loneliness and social isolation, and promote healthy self-esteem.
By taking these proactive steps, we can cultivate a workplace promoting good mental health for male employees and colleagues. Breaking the stigma surrounding men's mental health is a shared responsibility that benefits everyone, contributing to a healthier, more supportive, and inclusive work environment. Let us strive for a future where mental health is prioritised for all individuals, empowering them to seek the help they deserve and the support that they need to thrive.