Article provided by Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage
This month marked Men’s Health Week around the world and not surprisingly the chosen theme was Covid-19.
But while this crisis has made all of us think about our physical health, we need to make sure that now – more than ever – we’re taking care of our mental wellbeing too.
While the UK has made some brilliant strides at tackling mental health, the truth is we’ve still got a way to go, with suicide being the biggest killer of men under 50.
Studies have shown that men who are depressed are far less likely to talk to someone about it than women. Being seen as a burden, feeling embarrassed or thinking they can just ‘tough it out’ can all stop men from asking for help.
But male wellbeing isn’t just a man’s issue, it can impact the women in their lives too. If men are suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, it can have a huge knock-on effect on their work, parenting ability and relationships. So, in the immortal words of the Beatles, we all need to come together right now to make a difference.
Keeping your mind busy
There are lots of ways to help men look after their mental health and staying active is a great place to start. Whether it’s a bike ride, jog or walk, getting some regular exercise and fresh air can really boost people’s moods.
But keeping active doesn’t need to be all about breaking a sweat or giving Usain Bolt a run for his money. Spending time indoors is the perfect excuse for men to get their teeth stuck into those long overdue DIY jobs. Whether it’s putting up some shelves, giving the walls a fresh lick of paint or clearing out the shed, the important thing is to find projects that keep the mind stimulated.
After all, endless newsfeeds full of horror stories have left all of us feeling a bit uneasy and helpless, so finding ways to take our mind off things can help us feel a little less overwhelmed.
It’s also the first time many of us will have experienced our lives being disrupted to such an extent. From the closure of pubs and restaurants to queuing for supermarkets, most of the things we once took for granted have been pretty much turned on their head. This level of change, along with weeks of not seeing friends and family, can start to take its toll.
If you think a man in your life is struggling to cope or feeling anxious, encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. Sometimes it can be difficult to admit you’re not ok, so reaching out, listening and offering support can go a really long way in breaking down that stigma.
Building supportive workplaces
Employers have an important role to play when it comes to improving their employees’ health. In 2018/19, a huge 17.5 million working days were lost due to mental health problems, so if employee wellbeing takes a backseat in your organisation, it’s time to take the proverbial bull by the horns.
Many companies know how wellbeing can affect their employees but they don’t always take the right steps. Whether it’s a lack of investment in resources or training opportunities, or even just a lack of awareness on how to approach it, it’s barriers like these that can stop employees feeling motivated. And that can lead to stress, unhappiness and poor mental health.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Managers should be given mental health training on how to spot signs of poor mental health and build a culture that encourages people to talk openly and without fear of judgement.
With lots of employees now working from home, managers should be regularly checking in with their team individually. Employee communication is not only great for motivation and morale, but it can help boost self-esteem and wellbeing because it makes employees feel trusted and valued.
Lots of men will be juggling home-working with childcare or caring for elderly relatives. Bosses should make sure they’re really listening to their employees and see if there’s more that can be done to ease the pressure. Building a collaborative environment is one way to avoid burn out. There are lots of great platforms like Slack, Trello and Basecamp which allow people to connect and work together.
Many employers now also offer Employee Assistance Programmes, which give their employees access to round-the-clock professional mental health support. Letting staff know there is constant support available that can help if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
There’s no quick fix for dealing with men’s mental health but working together to recognise the barriers they face and encouraging them to talk and lend support can make a big difference.
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