Our guest blogger Alan Price thinks about some of the difficulties in the lead-up to the holidays.
Despite the gender split in employment being one of the most negligible in recorded history, with 72.2% of women active in the workforce compared to 78.8% of men, it’s an unfortunate yet unavoidable fact that gender roles still exist in some way or another.
20 November marked Equal Pay Day, the day on which women stop being paid relative to males.
Men also remain the breadwinner in many households, perhaps further evidenced by the fact that only one-third of eligible fathers take shared parental leave.
But given that mental health issues seem to disproportionately affect men, with three times as many men dying by suicide as women, to what extent do these gender roles have a negative impact?
Of course, the answer is not a linear one, but financial pressures can certainly play a significant role.
Couple that with the cost-of-living crisis which has seen the price of just about everything surge with wages, for the most part, remaining stagnant. Uncertainty and anxiety are high with redundancies risking as many organisations look to cut costs.
As if that wasn’t enough, Christmas is just around the corner: the time of year when most UK workers (57%) experience increased financial pressure. In fact, two in five (41%) healthcare workers say they will be taking on overtime this month in order to save money for Christmas and 20% of parents expect to be in debt as a result of buying gifts.
Of all the calls that mental health service and employee assistance programme provider Health Assured receives annual, many are related to financial worries.
So, this is clearly a concern for a large portion of the population. But how can employers help their staff overcome these issues?
Pay rises, where they can be granted, are a great way to ease the concerns so many people are facing right now but considering that the current economic climate is impacting everyone, from individuals to organisations, it may not always be feasible.
This is where having a financial wellbeing policy can really help support employees. The policy would outline all the benefits available to staff, how they can access free and confidential money and debt advice through your EAP and signposting to external services and go some way towards normalising talking about money worries at work.
Men aged 40 to 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK. This is also the most active age bracket in the labour market. Perhaps this is no coincidence with one in three men (32%) saying the biggest pressure in their life is work, and various studies alluding to higher levels of depression among workers in male-dominated workforces.
Over three-quarters (77%) of men have suffered from anxiety, stress, and depression, and according to the Government’s national well-being survey, men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women.
But why is this?
Well typically, men have been known to forego self-care and instead push themselves to their physical limits to exhaustion.
Showing emotion or vulnerability and asking for help can also be difficult yet keeping things inside and avoiding difficult conversations often increases feelings of isolation, which can lead to depression.
The number of men reaching out for help is at odds with the sheer number of men experiencing mental health issues. And given that much of the pressure comes from their jobs, it’s clearly something employers need to be more aware of.
Employers have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of their staff, so perhaps a degree of responsibility should fall on their shoulders to actively identify employees who are struggling with mental health issues, signposting them to relevant support systems, like an internal EAP, or external organisations.
But perhaps most importantly, they need to ensure that the work setting is an open and supportive one, where staff feel able and empowered to speak up about any issues.
Unconscious bias may be at play if gendered language and phrases are used in passing, such as “man of the house” or “man up”. These expressions can reinforce harmful stereotypes and notions that men must act in a certain way or cannot show vulnerability. In the long run this can – and does – have a detriment on mental health.
Training can be an invaluable tool in recognising and breaking these habits. Educate your line managers on how to identify signs of poor mental health, and how to sensitively approach and manage such scenarios. Introducing certified and qualified Mental Health First Aiders within the team to provide a first line of contact and advice is also a great way to make your staff feel supported.
Frequent 1-2-1s will provide the opportunity and the platform for concerns to be raised, and following that, reasonable adjustments may be implemented to help alleviate the situation.
Having a programme of webinars, talks, and events focused on men’s mental health will help to remove the stigma in the workplace and ensure that all your colleagues feel supported and empowered to raise issues.