It is estimated that around one in eight men in the UK has a mental health issue. This ranges from depression and anxiety to panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Men often find it difficult to talk about their emotions with their loved ones, let alone work colleagues or managers, and so problems caused by work, or which impact performance at work can go unnoticed, with damaging consequences.
So, what can men do, and what can be done to ensure that men’s mental health is taken seriously and that they can feel comfortable reaching out for help? We’ve put together our top tips:
1. Talk about your feelings
Firstly, think about what it is that’s making you feel low. You might be working in isolation, struggling with your workload, or finding a colleague or manager difficult to deal with. If you can pin your feelings down to a particular cause, you can then explore ways to address it.
Talking about your feelings isn’t easy but it helps you deal with times when you feel troubled. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s about taking charge of how you are feeling and what you need to change and putting in place a course of action. Just having someone listen to your worries can make you feel less alone.
You don’t need to sit down and pour out your heart and soul. If there’s someone you feel you can open up to over a sandwich at lunchtime, or in the car on the way to a meeting, it might be all it takes to see a conversation develop. It might feel awkward but take it gently and try to make talking about your feelings something you do naturally.
2. Take a break
Self care is vital too for men’s mental health. Too many people are slaves to the desk and laptop, believing they will be judged if they’re not seen to be working every minute of the day, but just half an hour out of the office enjoying some fresh air at lunchtime can make all the difference.
Forget the staff tea room and make time to go out and pick up a coffee from a nearby shop, you’ll get a little bit of exercise, some fresh air and some time to clear your head and reduce your stress levels. Alternatively, take some time to move away from your desk and sit and do nothing for a while. Most workplaces have breakout areas where you can just sit and read a book or catch up on your favourite website.
3. Keep active
Exercise is a natural release. It can boost your self-esteem and make you feel better generally, it will also help you sleep better at night and improve your appetite – hopefully for good, healthy food. But it doesn’t have to be sport – an activity or hobby that you enjoy and look forward to will help to improve your outlook on life.
Joining in activities like the work’s five-a-side football session or going along to a class or event with workmates will build relationships and create a potential support network.
4. Balance work time and free time
Working from home became a necessity for many during the pandemic, and even now, many workplaces are adopting it as a long-term strategy, or as part of a hybrid model. But it can raise difficulties for many people.
Isolation is a problem, but then so is having a household routine going on around you – making it difficult to concentrate. Ideally, you should get into a routine that delineates work time and free time. Try not to let work spill over into time that should be for yourself, your family and friends. Use this time to try new activities with a partner or friend, or something where you can meet new people and put work to one side for a few hours. Try to keep in close contact with work colleagues by suggesting online gatherings even if you can’t be with them in person as often as you would like. A fun quiz or games night, or just a chat over a drink, can make all the difference.
5. Ask a mate how they are doing
Protecting men’s mental health can be a two-way thing. Enquire after a friend or colleague, if they’re finding a particular project tough, or if a new routine like working from home is getting them down. They may welcome a chance to talk through their own issues, giving you the chance to open up, too.