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Clinical psychologist and co-founder of Flow Neuroscience Daniel Månsson explains.
Approximately 25% of people will suffer mental illness at some point during their lifetime and, since a large proportion of this time is spent at work, it is likely that this will happen whilst they are part of the workforce. Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, and around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And yet, they are a demographic that is generally less likely to seek support. Company leaders are in a position to ensure the culture in their business is not one that exacerbates this issue.
In general, men are more likely to mask depressive symptoms through maladaptive behaviour including aggressive, risk-taking and impulsive actions, all of which are not actually listed as the most common symptoms of depression. Instead, depression in men often looks like exaggerated anger, chronic irritability, and arrogance (as a way to mask insecurity). The tendency to abuse alcohol and other substances is also higher in men, as is the tendency to overwork as a way to cope with depression.
Before realising that a male employee is struggling with depression, he might already be known to HR for disruptive behaviour.
In my experience, as both a psychologist and a leader, I find it natural to discuss things that are emotionally tough with the people I work with and most often you’ll find these things are not related to the actual work. Leaders need to take into consideration that sometimes the most difficult members of their team are the ones that need the most kindness and support because something is happening to them. If you are able to listen to a person’s emotional needs, I have found that mental health becomes easier to support among your team.
I have had an advantage as a psychologist when it comes to this specific aspect of running a business. I tend to ask more questions that go beyond “how are you doing?”. I have found that the things that come out of these more in-depth conversations are more important for the person that I am talking to than any other work-related discussions we have – both from a mental health perspective and a productivity perspective.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to be a good listener, but to provide the best support, it is advisable to collaborate with healthcare professionals to shape your policies and device workshops that are built on a scientific foundation resulting in the best outcome for employees, through education, recognition and support.
The stigma surrounding men’s depression, telling us that chronic sadness and male attributes just don’t go together, can have deadly consequences – it keeps men from getting the treatment they need.
Companies need to make a conscious effort to foster a listening culture in which it is safe to talk. Confidential access and non-judgemental support with a trained professional to empower men to take charge of their own mental health should be provided.
Regular workshops with external professionals in which men are taught assertiveness and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can prove valuable. Learning how to identify feelings and how to express them in an appropriate way (instead of building up and exploding) will help men to get out of depression.
And not least, companies can take a proactive step to educate employees on the signs and symptoms of a range of disorders as an excellent way to increase awareness and create a positive support network in which colleagues can look out for themselves and each other.
Daniel Månsson (pictured above) is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Flow Neuroscience.