Facing the men’s mental health stigma head on

Facing the men’s mental health stigma head on

Half of all Australian men will have a mental health problem at some point in their life and one in eight will experience depression. Despite this, they are far less likely to open up about what is affecting them than their female counterpart. 21% of workers in the construction industry were shown to have had a mental health condition and construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident.

With a recent focus on promoting a healthy body and healthy mind, AccessEAP is doing its part in building awareness in some of the more male orientated workplaces where mental health issues are prominent.

“Talking about what’s affecting them and taking action are proven ways for men to stay mentally healthy but it’s still difficult to get men to take that all important first step,” says AccessEAP clinical services director Marcela Slepica.

“Often in male dominated industries, the macho mentality still exists where men are afraid to show weakness, sadness or vulnerability. If men don’t feel like they can open up, it can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. Apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age.”

Toolbox talks

AccessEAP has introduced ‘toolbox talks’ in an effort to raise mental health awareness. These sessions focus on increasing awareness of mental health issues and help men to see that help is available.

AccessEAP relationship management Eleni van Delft has already provided tailored toolbox talks to organisations in the manufacturing, mining and construction industries and is amazed by the immediate effect it has had on participants.

“Often at the beginning of a session, we struggle to get men to talk but by the end, they can be reluctant to leave and I’ve witnessed large scale discussion amongst participants about issues that may be affecting them in their personal or work life long after the session has ended,” says Eleni.

The toolbox talks are not only helping men to reach out for help, but also show them their organisation cares about them and values their wellbeing.”

Recent data from AccessEAP shows that anxiety (17%), relationship with partner (14%) and depression (14%) are the leading personal issues for which men seek assistance while workplace stress (15%), career concerns (10%), and fear of loss of job (8%), are the leading workplace issues. The work impact of these issues is difficulties in concentrating, feeling less productive and 12% have even considered resigning.

Men’s priorities tend to change with age and with that come work commitments, longer hours and the possibility of family commitments. It is often difficult to keep in touch with friends and invest time in hobbies, which can lead to a lack of social connection. Without someone to talk to about the demands of a stressful job, long hours or family troubles, these everyday stresses can result into something much more serious.

Managers and employees need to educate themselves about the behaviours that may indicate a colleague is going through a tough time and learn ways to encourage them to seek help if they’re concerned for their welfare.

Here, AccessEAP offers some tips to help men reach out in times of need:

  • Seeking help is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • The best health is achieved with looking after both your physical and mental health.
  • Make self-care a priority and set goals for sleep, exercise and ‘me’ time.
  • Maintain social contact and keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Equip yourself with the tools and strategies you need to cope with challenging life events. Start with your EAP and a confidential appointment.

For more information on toolbox talks or men’s mental health, please visit www.accesseap.com.au.

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