Facing the men’s mental health stigma head on

Half of all Australian men will have a mental health problem at some point in their life and one-in-eight will experience depression yet they are far less likely to open up about what is affecting them than their female counterpart.

With a recent focus on promoting a healthy body and healthy mind, AccessEAP is doing its part in building awareness in some of the more male orientated workplaces such as mining.

“Talking about what’s affecting them and taking action are proven ways for men to stay mentally healthy but it’s still difficult to get men to take that all important first step,” explains Marcela Slepica, clinical services director at AccessEAP.

“Often in male dominated industries, the macho mentality still exists where men are afraid to show weakness, sadness or vulnerability. If men don’t feel like they can open up, it can have a detrimental effect on their mental health.”

Toolbox talks

AccessEAP has introduced toolbox talks in an effort to raise mental health awareness. These sessions focus on increasing awareness of mental health issues and helping men to see that everyone needs help and that help is available.

Eleni van Delft, director, relationship management at AccessEAP has already provided tailored toolbox talks to organisations in the manufacturing, mining and construction industries and is amazed by the immediate effect it has had on participants.

“Often at the beginning of a session, we struggle to get men to talk but by the end, they can be reluctant to leave and I’ve witnessed large scale discussion amongst participants about issues that may be affecting them in their personal or work life long after the session has ended. The toolbox talks are not only helping men to reach out for help, but also show them their organisation cares about them and values their wellbeing,” van Delft said.

Recent data from AccessEAP shows that anxiety (17 per cent), relationship with partner (14 per cent) and depression (14 per cent) are the leading personal issues for which men seek assistance while workplace stress (15 per cent), career concerns (10 per cent), and fear of loss of job (8 per cent), are the leading workplace issues. The work impact of these issues is difficulties in concentrating, feeling less productive and 12 per cent have even considered resigning.

Men’s priorities tend to change with age and with that come work commitments, longer hours and the possibility of family commitments. It is often difficult to keep in touch with friends and invest time in hobbies, which can lead to a lack of social connection.

Without someone to talk to about the demands of a stressful job, long hours or family troubles, these everyday stresses can develop into something much more serious.

Managers and employees need to educate themselves about the behaviours that may indicate a colleague is going through a tough time and learn ways to encourage them to seek help if you’re concerned for their welfare.

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