men's mental health in the workplace, stressed

Article by Dr Jorge Palacios, Senior Digital Scientist

According to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, a total of 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems, costing UK employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

With Men’s Mental Health Awareness Week approaching, it’s important to note how mental health issues affect male employees in particular.’ Doctor and Senior Digital Health Scientist at SilverCloud Health, Jorge Palacios, PhD, reminds us that men are much less likely to seek and receive mental health support in comparison to women and that 40 per cent will not even talk about their mental health at all.

There is a real opportunity now that mental wellbeing is getting the attention it deserves and as such has risen up the corporate agenda as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The softer side of business, namely the HR department and those in charge of retaining talent, are investing more in the health and wellbeing of their workforce.  The business case is hard to ignore with a growing body of evidence showing the link between investment in employees’ mental health with reduced absenteeism and staff churn, increased productivity and overall profitability. 

But what about the men?  According to a recent study, a third (30%) of people who have experienced work-related mental ill-health have told no one, with men significantly more likely to keep their condition a secret (35%) compared with women (26%).  We asked Dr Palacios how, as an employer, do you even start the conversation?  “Men are more likely to downplay their mental health issues,” says Dr Jorge Palacios, “and that’s why awareness days like this month’s International Men’s Mental Health Day can be so important.”  He continues, “employers can use these types of days to shine a spotlight on something which is of critical importance to the overall functioning of the company.”  

“Employers need to ask themselves whether they have a culture whereby male employees feel comfortable sharing their issues and speaking openly, and if not, how they can improve. Employee surveys such as the one carried out by SilverCloud Health point to a need for empathy and openness from their employers, a place to be able to have difficult conversations without fear of scrutiny or retaliation. By discussing common depression symptoms at work – through internal communications such as team meetings, blogs, sharing podcasts, and other awareness-raising methods – alongside providing access to mental health support as well as space to deal with mental health issues freely and at employees’ own pace, a supportive culture can be created.” 

As a first step and a real marker of intent, Dr Palacios recommends training mental health champions who are tasked with keeping mental wellbeing top of mind and can point employees in need to the resources available to them. Any future plans for the company in light of the pandemic should acknowledge and include wellbeing initiatives as well.  “Promoting an environment where individuals are made to feel confident enough to share their stress and worries is really important,” he continues. “Demonstrating an understanding of the difficulties many men find in opening up can be as simple as investing in an online mental wellness programme where they can get help immediately and confidentially.” 

By making an investment in early detection, and intervention programmes, employers are facilitating a happier, healthier, and more productive environment.

Dr Jorge Palacios refers us to the success metrics which are hard to argue against:  “Our digital therapy solutions work to reduce depression and anxiety, which are often the underlying causes of presenteeism, absenteeism and burnout.  SilverCloud Health’s 2021 data shows up to 80 per cent of users show a reduction in terms of depression and anxiety symptoms.  In fact, our research has shown that 56 per cent of SilverCloud users, both male and female, with clinical diagnoses of both conditions were deemed to be diagnosis free within three months.  The same study found similar rates of symptom reduction between males and females after three months, with males actually showing a higher long-term decrease at 12 months.”

Find out more about SilverCloud Health at www.silvercloudhealth.com

About the author

With an MSc in Psychiatric Research & PhD in Psychological Medicine, Dr Palacios is a key driver behind the research strategy and agenda at SilverCloud Health through the design, execution, and publication of trials. He also works closely with collaborators across the world including some of the most highly cited and regarded researchers in the field of psychology and digital mental health. 

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