More than a third of men don’t feel like they can be open about their health at work, making them less likely to get help for any health issues or seek early treatment says Sally Campbell, Head of Clinical Development at Healix Health Services.
Whether it’s catching a serious illness at the right time or addressing a mental health problem, this can have huge consequences on their overall wellbeing.
Additionally, only half – 54 percent – of male employees, compared with three-quarters of women, consider mental health to be a key part of their overall wellbeing.
Employers need to consider pursuing and offering health and wellbeing initiatives that help their staff and which also resonate with male staff.
Men’s Health Awareness month is a great starting point for businesses, providing an opportunity for employers to raise awareness around men’s health issues, provide guidance to employees and even reconsider their approach to the support they offer staff.
The silent epidemic
When it comes to prevention and early detection, men’s health can sometimes take a back seat. Men are more prone to developing health issues, such as high blood pressure, in part because they’re more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as smoking and drinking.
They’re also far less likely to disclose health issues to loved ones. This makes early detection and treatment much more difficult and needs to change.
Indeed, engrained gender stereotypes have meant that men’s general attitudes towards their mental and physical health often mean they can see being sick or asking for help as a weakness.
Other barriers include concerns that asking for help could put their career in jeopardy if they signal difficulties with coping with work demands or relationships. All these factors play a role in men’s disengagement and can ultimately impact their health.
Male employees hiding their health issues has also slowly led to a “silent epidemic” when it comes to mental health. That’s a significant problem when you consider that around one in eight men suffers from a common mental health issue such as depression or anxiety.
So what can employers do to tackle these issues?
Providing meaningful and proactive support
Supporting wellbeing in the workplace requires effort from employers to raise awareness about men’s health though. Initiatives such as Men’s Health Awareness Month and creating a culture of openness are key.
Organisations should aim to reassure their staff and respond to their concerns with effective communication and delivery of the services and support systems they already have in place.
While this should be done in a way that is sensitive to their privacy, sharing relevant information and access to services that they can use on their own, such as a virtual GP service, mental health provision and counselling, can crucially support male staff members in a way that they feel comfortable.
Employers wishing to create a positive and healthy workplace culture for their male staff should do so with a strategy based on prevention, information and training. As the first line of contact for many employees, managers can play a significant role in bridging the gap between staff, HR departments and healthcare services. Regular information and specific training, such as Mental Aid First Aid, can better prepare them to recognise signs of distress amongst colleagues and provide them with the right tools to help those who might need support.
In addition, encouraging those at the executive level to act as role models for staff when it comes to accepting and showing vulnerabilities can also have a positive impact on the overall workplace culture.
A tailored approach
Employers could consider providing tailored strategies around male-specific health issues that are known to improve quality of life and health.
This includes screening for prostate cancer where appropriate, offering information and support for problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) such as incontinence.
Regular health checks can provide individual assessments based on personal and familial history too, encouraging men to take a healthier and individualised approach to their own health. With both relevant information and access to specific men’s health benefits, employers can offer their staff access to treatment options, specialist advice and services to care for their health.
Supporting male staff through their health journey can go a long way in allowing for a more productive, dynamic, and healthy workforce. Men’s Health Awareness Month provides an opportunity for employers to reconsider what support they have to offer employees, and with some simple steps, proactive strategies, and a real ability to listen to their workforce’s concerns, they can ensure valuable support is on hand for staff.
Sally Campbell is Head of Clinical Development at Healix Health Services and the lead for mental health and wellbeing. With two decades of experience in the nursing industry, Sally worked in the primary health care sector before joining Healix Heath Services over ten years ago. Sally is also a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.