Confused about the purpose of Movember? Well it’s where men grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. The Movember Foundation runs the main Movember charity event and many other charities also take part on and offline.
With that in mind, we thought right now might be a good time to start a conversation about male mental health, because the topic is surrounded by stigma and misinformation.
How can men improve their mental health if they’re trapped by stereotypes? We take a look…
We spoke to Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz, a leading men’s life coach and male mental health expert who is based in the UK. Kenny has been running workshops and men’s groups for over 15 years and has been featured in The Guardian, Elle and Newsweek for his expertise.
Kenny knows a thing or two when it comes to debunking the myths around male mental health. Read on for our take around male mental health issues at work with Kenny’s insight.
Male suicide is a result of poor mental health
According to recent stats from the Office For National Statistics and reported by LadBible, in 2017 there were 5,821 suicides registered in the UK. The site reports that men accounted for three-quarters of all suicides registered in 2017 (4,382), a stat that shockingly, hasn’t changed since the mid-1990s.
Mental Health also reports that between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems took their own life in the UK. and that suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
Kenny believes talking is the key to better mental health for men. He said: “It’s important for men to talk about mental health because it’s literally better out than in”.
He continued: “Men are know to like to fix things, not appear weak or to have any vulnerabilities or needs. Such old fashioned programming can cost a man his marbles, or worse still – his life! Fixing things in men’s heads whilst wearing a good mask and hiding what’s really going on inside can only lead to bad mental health, isolation, addiction, abuse, so much unnecessary pain.”
Male mental health at work
According to 2017 research from the charity Mind, one in three men (32 per cent) attribute poor mental health to their job, compared to one in seven men (14 per cent) who say it’s problems outside of work.
The data also shows that men are less prepared to seek help and take time off than women. It’s also shown that men are more likely to have mental health problems because of their job, and that women are more likely to open up and seek support from their line manager or employer than men.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from poor mental health at work, you can learn how to spot the symptoms and then volunteer yourself to speak up and arrange workshops or initiatives around raising awareness.
There are lots of things workplaces can put into place to boost employee mental health. If concerned you should speak to your boss or employer about counselling services, mental health sick days, or becoming a mental health co-ordinator.
Kenny noted that men struggle with mental health issues at work, because they often have a fantasy around who and how they need to be. Pressures can cause them to crack. “Men can pretend to be the fantasy of what they think others want them to be, leaving little to no space for who they are” he explained.
“They often live life as a fraud at work, feeling like they have Imposter Syndrome, fear of being found out, humiliated, sacked, with no money, a bad reference and a crushed ego.”
He advised that employers should “make space for the individuals to be individuals, rather than faceless teams, workers or cogs in machines”.
He said: “employers can ask how people are, what they need, what would help with peaceful productivity and a happier working environment. Employers can let staff in on the bigger picture of what they’re doing, so they feel a part of the projects.”
“Bosses should demonstrate how to ask questions and risk being seen as a fool, to model such natural human vulnerability. They can demonstrate getting things wrong and putting them right, as well as doing a good job and gaining praise.”
(We wrote about how you can talk to your boss about mental health issues here).
Kenny went on to say that “bosses should be true to their word, their contracts and their review periods, taking the time to be with their staff, letting them know they are considered, valued, safe and on a track for growth.” Very true.
“A good employer is like a good parent, with reflective listening, descriptive praise, availability and the strength to set, hold and be true to boundaries.”
Stereotypes around masculinity can make things worse
It’s astonishing to think that the number one cause of male death in England and Wales is suicide. What kinds of pressure must these men be under to take their own lives? Kenny believes men are subject to a range of harmful and reductive stereotypes.
Psychology research shows that we are all subject to gender labels – it’s hard for us to disassociate years of societal conditioning to break away from defining men as we always have, as strong, stoic, leaders.
Kenny told us that these labels stick and as a result, many men do not like to appear weak or to show their vulnerabilities.
“Men often don’t want to be a burden, a problem, let the side down” he explained. “They are supposed to be able to be strong, hold it together, stiff upper lip, nerves of steel and heart of gold with no cracks showing or their world might come tumbling down around them as they hit reality with a thump.”
Kenny said his slogan at his MenSpeak Men’s Group is a take on the particularly reductive and well-known phrase, “man up”.
He said: “We say man-up…and talk about it! Then we know we are not alone, we can learn from one another’s successes and failures… get our of our heads, out of a rut, out of isolation and into action, present and connected so that life can lead us forwards.”
Sounds good, right?
Let’s reprogram gender stereotypes so men can be free to live as they wish, and have better mental health as a result.
Like this… how about?