Men’s Health Week – Mental Health at Work

Every year the Men’s Health Forum takes one week to encourage men to turn attention inward and make the time to prioritise their health.  This is so important in 2022 as, during the pandemic, early-stage cancer diagnoses fell by one third in the first lockdown, and mental health problems increased exponentially.  It’s time to right these wrongs, and encourage everyone to get checked out – but why the particular focus on men? For one reason, male visits to the GP fell more than any other gender’s, and statistically, men are less likely to seek help for a mental health problem. 

This year the Men’s Health Forum has created some specific collateral that focuses on mental health, and they are encouraging all men to take a ‘Mental Health MOT’.  They have created a short manual that uses a simple formula as a gateway to helping men take the first steps in looking after their mental health.

The ‘Men’s Health MOT for the Mind’ uses a tool called the CAN DO approach:

  • Connect – Boost your connections with others
  • Active – Easy ways to get active
  • Notice – Enjoy greater awareness of your environment
  • Discover – Keep Learning
  • Offer – Give to Others

At Connect Three we teach the importance of prioritising people’s mental health in the workplace, and how by offering support at work, you can help to improve people’s quality of life in general.  So with that in mind, we asked two of our male team members to take a look at the Mental Health MOT manual, and review the CAN DO approach for our clients and people.

First, before we look at the manual, do you think men really need a separate campaign to encourage them to look after their health?

David: “Yes I really do. Men are less likely to pay attention to their health – mental or physical – or to have a natural outlet to talk about these things. And when a man has poor mental health it’s more likely that this will be ruining someone else’s life too, for example, by them taking it out on others at home, or work.”

Gregor: “I agree.  A targeted campaign will help men relate and be able to focus on mental health challenges that are more prevalent in men. The best way to shift how men view their mental health is for them to see other men lead by example. Separate campaigns can help showcase these examples and create change.”

Is an ‘MOT’ and ‘CAN DO’ approach the answer?

Gregor: “Well – actually I was quite put off by the title!  ‘Man MOT’ is stereotyped towards a ‘manly-man who likes cars’…I don’t think I’m the only person that would feel alienated by it.

“The CAN DO approach is a great, factually correct system, but I think it falls down in its execution.  If you’re mentally struggling, facing burnout, and you feel like there is too much going on, CAN DO implies you should push through rather than pause and reflect.  The whole guide assumes you are going to have the time and energy to be proactive, and have the headspace and motivation to try the challenges.  This might be really useful for some people, but for others, it’s too far in the future.

Looking after yourself starts with self-reflection; understanding where you are at, not jumping into adding more things.”

OK, so the idea of making connections, speaking up, and gaining more awareness is correct – but wording it to sound like ‘just push through’ might give the wrong message! 

So what should workplaces be doing to help support their male employee’s mental health, especially with burnout becoming a real problem for all sizes of businesses?

David: “The first step, like Gregor says, is reflection and education.  We need to find ways to make it as normal to talk about mental health in the workplace as it is to talk about physical illness.  Leaders need to help people to get past ‘I’m fine’, and raise awareness of the outward signs of burnout and other common mental health problems.”

Gregor: “I agree, education is key.  Leaders should offer resources that people can access without having to raise flags or contact HR.  Step one in getting help, especially for men, should not be ‘admit your problem to someone’.  A huge barrier to men seeking help is fear of embarrassment or ridicule. Let’s remove that by giving out resources before they’re asked for.

“Male senior leaders need to be role models and be open about their own challenges with mental health.  This will help others in the business be open, start to listen, and maybe start to chat.”

Gregor, you are part of the Wellbeing team in Connect Three, what can you share that we do that might help others get started?

Gregor: “At Connect Three we have wellbeing sessions where we all come together to discuss how we’re getting on and what support would be helpful.  These are incredibly useful and, personally, I gain comfort from knowing others are going through or have been through similar situations; and I gain knowledge on what might help me get through them.  Having mixed-gender sessions lets men see how other genders share and speak about things – both positive and negative.  A separate campaign for men is great, but collaboration can be really helpful too.”

Amazing – thanks!  Any final thoughts David?

David: “It’s great that men’s mental health is being talked about more and more but we still have a long way to go. Let’s use this momentum to have conversations and be open to how we’re doing from there we can look at ways to help each other and ourselves.”