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An Employer’s Guide to Improving Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace

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For the month of November, men across the world are asked to grow a moustache and start conversations about men’s mental health.

Campaigns like Movember were born out of the realization that men’s mental health is in crisis. Although the project has made an incredible impact, funding more than 1,250 men’s health projects over the last decade, recent studies show that men’s mental health in Canada is still a significant issue.

A recent study conducted by UBC on men’s mental health in the workplace found that almost half of the participants met the requirements for major depression. The study also found that 1 in 3 men experienced thoughts of suicide or self-injury a few times a week, 55% reported loneliness, and almost 1 in 4 said their psychological pain was so intolerable they could feel themselves falling apart.

Similarly, a report by StatCan found that men account for roughly 75% of suicide deaths in Canada—an average of 50 men per week—and that suicide is the second leading cause of death for men under 50.

These sobering results highlight a need to prioritize support for men’s mental health in the workplace. It’s crucial now, more than ever, that employers strive to improve men’s well-being at work.

Why is men’s mental health important?

Mental health issues like depression, ADHD, and anxiety can have an impact on businesses through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased costs. Besides benefitting employees, employers have duties and responsibilities regarding mental health under discrimination, privacy, and workplace health and safety legislation.

Introducing support for men struggling with mental health can improve your employee productivity levels, lower your workplace’s absence levels, and help you retain your top talent.

Despite the need to support men and their mental health, a study found that 28% of Canadian men believed their job could be at risk if they discuss mental health issues at work, while over 33% of men said they worried about being overlooked for a promotion if they spoke up.

Social norms surrounding masculinity can be incredibly harmful to men, making it harder for them to acknowledge when they’re not doing well and to reach out for support when they’re struggling.

For these reasons, it’s more important now than ever that employers are supportive of men’s mental health issues in the workplace.

What factors impact men’s mental health?

There are many causes of poor mental health, including obvious triggers such as a long-term health condition, financial stress, bereavement, or divorce. Illness can also arise from a genetic disposition to mental health problems, pressure at work, social isolation, discrimination, or trauma.

It’s important to note that men’s issues can stem from different causes and triggers than those that impact women. This is due to societal issues that cater to traditional gender roles, such as financial stress from expectations of being the breadwinner of the family. Pressure to not speak openly about their emotions, the tendency to rely on themselves, and the social stigma surrounding seeking help, are additional risk factors uniquely impacting men’s mental health.

How do you know if an employee is suffering mentally?

The first step to addressing men’s mental health in the workplace is to know what signs to look for. By noticing the signs early, employers can provide solutions for employees to improve their mental health and work and prevent it from worsening.

Outbursts, mood swings, crying, aggression, disruptive behaviour, self-imposed isolation, and avoiding social interactions are the more obvious signs that are cause for concern. However, some of the other signs can be more subtle. One of these is a change in work habits, including a lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, and reduced productivity.

Another less obvious sign is a change in physical appearance; if an employee’s personal grooming has noticeably gone downhill, it could be an indication that they’re not coping with their mental health. Any shifts in demeanour can also be a symptom of poor mental health in the workplace, including irritability or nervousness.

Increased absenteeism, including missing meetings, calling in sick, and arriving late, are all also red flags for poor mental health, as are physical symptoms such as fatigue and aches and pains.

How can employers support men’s mental health?

If you’re noticing that one of your male employees is displaying some of the above signs, or they have personally informed you that they’re struggling with mental health issues, you could help them through:

Education and awareness

The first step is to raise awareness. Companies should ensure they offer training and information sessions about mental health awareness and suicide prevention to improve men’s mental health in the workplace.

To further educate staff, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) offers free courses covering key mental health issues. It also runs a Mental Health First Aid program to improve mental health literacy and teach skills to better manage potential mental health problems.

For employers, the MHCC has also developed a framework called the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. It is a voluntary set of guidelines, tools, and resources to help employers promote mental health and prevent psychological harm at work.

Counselling services

Employers should also encourage regular checkups and counselling and provide employees time off to participate. Men can often neglect these services due to social stigma, however, talking to a doctor regularly can identify and improve mental health problems early on. Companies can also consider offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – a confidential, short-term counselling service – to help employees struggling with personal issues, such as mental health, stress, substance abuse.

Mental health policies

Having mental health policies in place is also extremely important. A clear and comprehensive policy will guide your employees and your supervisors on the next steps when an employee makes a mental health disclosure and requests accommodation.

It is important that your supervisors are trained on how to sensitively manage such requests. A well-written policy that is included in your employee handbook and shared with your staff will reinforce your company’s commitment to creating a nurturing and inclusive workplace.

Do you need help creating a mental health policy?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HRhealth and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.

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