With the stigma of male mental health still prominent, Tim discusses what employers can do to support employees suffering from a mental health issue.
By Tim Frear
I was lucky enough to have attended a seminar on male mental health during Mental Health Awareness Week this year and found it was a real eye opener. I had no idea that in the UK three quarters of all suicides are males and that 42% of men have considered suicide.
One of the biggest thing we discussed was the phrase ‘It’s ok not to be ok’. We as men have always been told to supress our feelings, be the provider and the protector, dating back to cave man times! We’re now in 2018 and the world has changed, and with the media involvement and celebrity endorsements, male mental health is becoming a hotter topic. For the first time, we have been given a voice, we can talk about ourselves and what is troubling us without fear of judgement and ridicule.
There’s lots of things an employer can do to support people suffering with a mental health issue. This can include educating their staff on how to identify and manage mental health and have wellness policies that are robust, effective and useful (not just a policy for the sake of it).
Employers can also ensure they have mental health first aiders on site, which helps people know who to talk to if they need to. Employers can provide relaxed and calm breakout areas, plus flexible working policies that complement a work life balance… the list goes on.
It’s important to be able to identify anxiety in men, as it typically differs from women. For men, we can become withdrawn and quiet, becoming self-centred, angry or irritable at small things. We tend to lean on destructive behaviours such as alcohol or drugs to overcome fears. As an employer, you might notice a change in our movements, as they can be slower than normal, we might have difficulties in concentrating or might have changed our eating habits.
As an employer, you might be able to identify these in an employee, but the hardest part is for us as employees to acknowledge that there’s an issue. Employers have a duty of care for their employees, directing us to help and support on our own terms. If we want to talk, it’s important to listen and accept what we’re saying. As the listener, you should never be critical or get frustrated and don’t try and solve our problems, as by doing this you’re automatically making judgements on what we’re saying.
There are many coping strategies available to us as men (and women too) that can be done to help improve mental health, including yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. General exercise can help too, a run around the block or a walk along the river. This give us fresh air and increases our core strength (well if you’re not a chunky monkey like me that is). All this should also help you look and feel better too – both inside and out.
The world is changing and more and more of us (including me) live alone. We spend upwards of 40 hours, 5 days a week with the same people, and this 40 hours could well be the only interaction a person gets every day. We need to ensure our working life is fulfilling, that stress is appropriate to our work, and that there are outlets for men to help themselves when they need to.
Employees with mental health issues are protected under employment law, so reasonable adjustments should be considered and put in place where needed to help the working lives of employees. Reasonable adjustments can include alterations to working hours, patterns or location, support with workload or support from others. The most common reasonable adjustment includes giving time off for counselling or wellness appointments.
If we need time to call someone independent, allow us the time and space to do that. The Samaritans are available on 116 123, which is free from landlines and mobiles. Or you can call the 116 123 number which doesn’t show up on phone bills.
By giving us the freedom to talk to the right people, you’re empowering us to take the first steps, so make sure your team know it’s ok not to be ok!
If you have any questions about the issues discussed in this blog, just get in touch.
Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.