It is common knowledge that men are disproportionately affected by poor mental health. A combination of societal expectation, stigma and traditional values means that men rarely feel comfortable speaking up. As with all things mental health, COVID has only exacerbated the problem. As we enter a post-pandemic world and workplace, it is worth taking the time to consider and break down the stigma associated with men’s mental health.
Official statistics have shown that men are twice as likely to die from COVID. Further, one in eight men have a common mental health problem such as depression, panic disorder or OCD. While there is no single reason for this, but rather a confluence of various social and biological factors, a large contributor to this disproportionate number has to do with the societal pressure that men face.
The traditional view of men as strong and dominant breadwinners creates a certain stigma that makes it incredibly difficult for men to open up about their feelings. The fear of being branded ‘weak’ or ‘unmanly’ often overrides the need to be heard. In fact, some research has suggested that this stigma means that men do not even recognise the mental health issues they may be experiencing, depriving them of the vocabulary to truly express themselves.
When men do express themselves, it can be difficult to spot that they are suffering from depression or anxiety. While there is no kind of distinct ‘male depression’ , some symptoms are more common in men than women. These include irritability, short temper, a loss of control and aggression. Men are also more likely to engage in alcohol or drugs to cope, or engage in escapist behaviour like over-working.
How do you combat this? The first step is establishing a space that is open and communicative. If your male colleagues feel that it is safe to open up, then the chances of them actively seeking help increases. This can be achieved by actively championing mental health in the workplace, reminding your employees that it’s ok not to be ok. With World Mental Health Day round the corner, it is important that we all consider the challenges faced by everyone when it comes to the pandemic.