Raising awareness for Movember
Movember might be a fun event, but it has a very serious message. It involves the growing of moustaches to raise money and awareness regarding men’s health. The issues covered are ones where often conversations need to be opened up, and workplaces provide a great opportunity to actively encourage and support this.
Importance of highlighting men’s mental health
The latest figures  released in September 2022 show that around three quarters of suicides are male, and since 2010, the highest suicide rates each year have been in males aged 45 to 64 years. This figure may be surprising to many employers who would be forgiven for thinking suicide is more common in younger people. It seems that there may be an ‘invisible’ group of men in the later stages of their careers who are suffering and in need of support.
This invisible demographic falls somewhere between generation X (age 42 – 57) and baby boomers (age 58 – 76). Men at this age often face a combination of challenges including being in a sandwich of caring responsibilities for dependent children and older relatives. Relationship issues and divorce often happen at this stage, as do increased financial concerns surrounding mortgages, retirement and caring for others. At the ages of 45 to 64, some men will be dealing with chronic or major illness and many will begin to have a sense of their own mortality.
Worrying tendency for men to avoid seeking help
Particularly among men, there can be a tendency to avoid seeking help, hoping problems will just go away. Men are stereotypically more reticent than women to report their health issues, with 65% saying they put off going to the doctor for as long as possible, and over a quarter withhold information out of fear or potential embarrassment when they do finally see a professional .
Men’s tendency to overlook their health issues and ability to engage in ‘doctor-dodging’ can have a real impact on their wellbeing. Considering the backlog of treatment and consultations created by the pandemic, employers need innovative and flexible solutions that can help staff cut through NHS waiting times.
From a young age, stereotypes about male sensitivity and perceived strength can trigger emotional and physical issues. It is therefore a crucial first step for any employer to create opportunities for male employees to actively engage with their health and encourage a culture of openness whereby men feel they can safely reach out for help. Although 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health , there are several ways to meet them in the middle.
Tips for an action plan employers can implement
A good first step is to open the discussion and encourage conversation regarding men’s physical and mental health. This not only raises awareness of the issues but also helps to remove any stigma. This is a simple option that can be carried out in the workplace and is also cost-free.
The next stage is to implement relevant benefits, such as an employee assistance programme (EAP). These are a good option for signposting employees to places for support and EAPs may also offer counselling sessions. Employers may find that some support is already in place through existing benefits, like EAPs included within group life assurance, or virtual GPs as part of private medical insurance, or they may be able to offer them on a standalone basis.
Men may be more likely to dismiss communications about their emotional wellbeing if they are not relevant at that time, so repeating and reiterating them is important. Choice of language can be particularly important in communicating wellbeing support. Sessions on building ‘mental strength’ and ‘resilience’ are often better received by men than mental health assistance, which can have negative connotations. It is also often helpful to combine education on both physical and mental wellbeing, as this may be easier for men to accept than mental health support alone.
It is just about thinking around the communication from different angles. Another suggestion is to ‘ask twice’. The question: ‘How are you?’ will often be met with the response: ‘Fine’. But asked a second time: ‘No, how are you really?’ may open up more of a dialogue. This is a useful tactic for a line manager concerned about a colleague.
Concerns about physical health, particularly issues with NHS waiting lists, can lead to a great deal of anxiety. Employers can offer access to virtual GPs, along with health screening and second-opinion services. Boosting physical health can also help to boost mental health, so benefits like gym membership and lifestyle education on sleep and exercise are beneficial in more than one way. Specific mental health support is also available through various options from talking therapies and cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) to counselling and psychiatrist-led treatments.
Employers must be aware of the demographics that need the most support in different areas when considering their health and wellbeing strategies. Young men will have different requirements to those in the mid or later stages of life.
Employers should also consider the neurodiversity of their employees and offer a range of ways for assistance to be accessed. This is likely to be a combination of face-to-face and online approaches, to suit the requirements of all personality types.
A wide, holistic view should be taken as there are often a number of factors that influence overall wellbeing. For example, money worries are likely to impact mental and physical health, so financial education could prove as important as health considerations.
Start a conversation
Raising awareness and raising the subject of men’s health is as important to Movember as raising money. The workplace is an ideal location for creating a conversation about men’s health, as there is often a wide demographic of ages and experiences. Women should be included in the communications too as everyone can help to progress positive messages for men’s health.
For more information visit https://uk.movember.com/
Debra is the head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection. Debra has been in the employee benefits industry for over 25 years now working in a number of specialist intermediaries and roles. Debra is passionate about mental health and all forms of wellbeing particularly in the workplace, as she strongly believes people are any businesses best asset and they can ensure the success of a company if they are well.