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Work twice as likely as other issues to affect men’s mental health

But they are reluctant to open up about problems or to take time off, Mind survey shows

Caroline White

Wednesday, 09 August 2017

Men are twice as likely to have mental health issues prompted by their job as they are to have mental ill health caused by problems outside the work environment, finds a survey of 15,000 employees in 30 organisations, commissioned by mental health charity, Mind.

But they are more reluctant than women to open up about their mental health issues or to take time off for them than women are, the responses show.

The charity is urging employers to sign up to the Workplace Wellbeing Index 2017/18, a benchmark of best policy and practice around staff mental health that is designed to celebrate the good work employers are doing, and to provide key recommendations on specific areas that need to be improved.

Some 1763 of the survey respondents were experiencing poor mental health at the time of the survey.

The responses showed that one in three men (32%) attributed poor mental health to their job, compared to one in seven men (14%) who said problems outside of work were to blame.

Women, on the other hand, made no such distinctions: one in five said that their job was the reason for their poor mental health, the same proportion who blamed problems outside of work (19%).
 
The data also show that men are less prepared willing to seek help and to take time off for mental health issues than women are.

Two in five women (38%) felt their organisation’s culture made it possible to speak openly about mental health issues, but only around one in three men (31%) agreed.

And while two in five women (43%) said they had taken time off for poor mental health at some point in their career, only around one in three men (29%) had done so. 

This suggests that although men are more likely to have mental health problems because of their job, women are more likely to open up and seek support from their line manager or employer, says Mind.

Previous research by the charity suggests that men often try to find ways of dealing with their problems independently rather than reaching out and sharing their problems.

Instead of talking about their problems, they prefer to watch TV, exercise or self-medicate, including with alcohol.

Men need to open up and ask for help earlier on, so they can receive the support they need, before they reach crisis point, says Mind. 

The findings also show a gender difference in the way in which men and women feel they’re being supported in the workplace. While more than half of women (58%) felt their manager regularly checks in on how they are feeling, less than half of men (49%) felt the same.
 
But most line managers (74%) felt confident about supporting employees with mental health problems, although only three in five male line managers (60%) felt they had a good understanding of how to promote the mental wellbeing of staff, compared to three in four female line managers (74%).

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “Many men work in industries where a macho culture prevails or where a competitive environment may exist which prevents them from feeling able to be open.

“It is concerning that so many men find themselves unable to speak to their bosses about the impact that work is having on their wellbeing and even more worrying that they are then not asking to take time off when they need it.”

She added that although the research shows that most managers feel confident in supporting employees with mental health problems, they can only offer extra support if they’re aware there is a problem in the first place.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen employers come on leaps and bounds when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff, including those with a diagnosed mental health problem. However, there is more to do and employers do need to recognise the different approaches they may need to adopt in how they address mental health in the workplace,” she said.   

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