Men are at higher risk from Covid-19 and suffering from mental health issues in silence: a potentially lethal combination. With Men’s Health Week, commencing 15 June, focusing on taking action on Covid-19, it’s important that businesses understand why men may be reticent to access support if they are struggling so they’ll be better equipped to encourage them to access help if they need it.
Men are typically a hard-to-reach group when it comes to mental health, not least in part because they can be reluctant to vocalise a problem and seek help. The pandemic is placing untold pressures on people, so it’s particularly important that businesses understand what can hold men back from seeking help, so they’ll be in a better position to know how to encourage them to access support available to them.
Reluctance to admit they’re struggling
Some men don’t feel comfortable admitting to, or discussing, that they are struggling with their mental health, so they then don’t seek support. In fact, two in five (41%) have said they’d prefer to solve their own problems, rather than seek mental health support when they needed it. But the pandemic and isolation has thrown down many gauntlets that can derail mental health – such as the stress of juggling home schooling and work, or becoming lead child carer if a partner is a key worker, for example. Lives have been turned upside down and some men may struggle to adapt to their change of role and the “new normal”. Appreciating these specific issues can enable businesses to behave compassionately and with understanding, and communicate that it’s OK if staff find this a challenging period for mental health, and encourage them to seek support if they’re struggling.
Not wanting to confide in another person
Men can be reticent to talk to others about their mental health, out of fear of being misunderstood or being a burden on others. However, there is a good work-around for this, as some will find it easier to raise concerns and seek support via remote services that don’t require potentially awkward face-to-face interaction. In such instances, artificial intelligence (AI) and mental health apps can be powerful tools in supporting men, allowing them to monitor their mood and manage their emotions through a range of techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation. Guiding them through their emotions – some of which will have been experienced for the first time due to lockdown – can help tackle concerns at the onset before they potentially manifest into more complex mental health problems. Such support can also help drive down related absence, by empowering individuals to take control of their mental health – an extra advantage for businesses too.
Fear of judgement and ramifications
Men sometimes fear that if they admit to a mental health issue, they’ll be negatively viewed by their employers and overlooked for future opportunities as a result. This can stop them from seeking much needed support for their mental health. With this in mind, businesses can remind employees that mental-health support services such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are completely confidential – the employer won’t get to hear who has accessed it or about specific issues, and this can greatly encourage their use. With the pandemic potentially freeing up more time for some staff, now may also be an ideal time for them to access such support.
Not needed support previously
Some men may not have taken any notice of the availability of such support services in the past if they haven’t needed it. So it’s particularly important to regularly recap what is available, so people know it’s there when they do need it, and this can make a significant difference in how much it’s utilised. A lockdown and pandemic is a new experience for everyone, and even usually resilient people may struggle. Regularly highlighting the support available and encouraging utilisation may well help to end a dark period of suffering in silence and help men cope during the pandemic.
Although everyone faces personal battles during the pandemic, it’s particularly important for employers to understand what holds people back from accessing support. Having a better understanding is an important step in helping businesses promote any support in such a way that will encourage it to be utilised. The earlier mental health concerns are nipped in the bud the better, enabling treatment to be more effective, and recovery to be quicker.