Sometimes a press release lands in my inbox containing facts and figures that really stick in my head. This week, a release focusing on male mental health from mental health and wellbeing support services provider Wellbeing Partners did just that.
This highlighted several key statistics pertaining to male mental health in the UK, which stood out purely because I hadn’t realised just how prevalent incidents of male suicide and mental ill-health truly are. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), for example, in 2021, three times as many men died by suicide than women. Males aged 50 to 54, meanwhile, were found to have the highest suicide rate, at 22.5 per 100,000.
Yet, according to the Mental Health Foundation, just 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men.
Stereotypically, men are considered much less likely to seek help for both physical and mental health issues. Those that feel able to speak up about the issues they are experiencing, however, may be more likely to access the support that they need. With so many of the working population likely to be experiencing such issues, employers are ideally placed to provide access to support.
Encouraging employees to start conversations about their mental health needs, however, may require a significant shift in both mindsets and organisational culture.
This month sees three male-focused events that could act as a stimulus for employers to promote the services on offer through the workplace, and encourage employees to come forward should they feel they would benefit from these.
Movember, International Men’s Day (19 November) and Men’s Health Awareness Month (1-30 November) all include a focus on male mental health and suicide prevention. Being seen to openly support such awareness events may help an employer to position the organisation as one in which conversations about mental health issues are encouraged and supported.
Encouragingly, the Public perceptions survey, published by the BACP in June 2022, found that 79% of men agreed it is more socially acceptable to discuss mental health than five years ago, while 68% of men said there is less of a stigma around mental health. In addition, 27% of male respondents said they had been for therapy, compared with 18% in 2010. This tallies with usage figures from Wellbeing Partners, which found that 45% of its workplace counselling sessions are now being accessed by men.
Given the scale of the issue, however, there is still a long way to go.