Men’s mental health: looking out for your male colleagues

Written by Beth Gault Tuesday 08 November 2022
Men are much less likely to seek support for their mental health than women and three times as likely to commit suicide. If managers stay on the lookout for changes in behaviour and feel confident in encouraging them to open up, we can change the culture
A man with a blurred head area

Someone can have depression for 10 years before realising they are depressed, according to chartered psychologist Dr Joe MacDonagh. While people tend to notice the extreme changes, they don’t always notice the small ones.

While this applies to anyone, it is particularly true of men, who are more likely to suffer in silence than women: within the UK government’s national wellbeing survey, men reported lower levels of life satisfaction than women, yet they were also less likely to access psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of referrals to talking therapies in the NHS being for men. It’s why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

Tracy Herd, director of global program implementation for mental health and suicide prevention at men’s health charity Movember, says that many men worry that being open with their struggles might threaten their job or cost them a promotion.

“Others face pressure from families who view mental health issues as a source of shame, rather than a diagnosable, treatable condition,” says Tracy. “This stigma keeps too many men from getting the care or treatment they need.” Toxic masculinity, where emotions are considered a “weakness”,  is also a contributing factor.

Look out for deviations from their baseline

Recognising the signs that a colleague needs mental health support often relies on noticing subtle changes in their behaviour.

A man looking distressed
Managers should be confident in starting a conversation with someone they suspect may be struggling. Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

Everyone has an emotional baseline; how they usually act or present themselves, explains Dr MacDonagh. One person’s baseline can be drastically different from another’s. “It’s incorrect to see all workers as the same, because some are more extroverted or introverted,” says Dr MacDonagh. “So, it’s important you know your employees.”

When people seem to divert from that baseline – avoiding group conversations when they’d usually be very sociable, for example – that could be a sign that their mental health is deteriorating.

Other signs could include hypersensitivity and rumination, according to Dr MacDonagh. Ruminating is characterised by someone appearing lost in their thoughts. “What's happening is that they are going over something inside their heads and are often unable to move on,” he says.

Keep reading to learn how to encourage a struggling male colleague to open up


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