Why Men’s Mental Health Matters More than Ever

November is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. It is often harder for men to talk about their mental health, due to  peer behaviours and societal expectations. However, we have a growing crisis which is deepening across our predominantly male-dominated workspaces, and we need to take action.

On average, men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women in the UK. The latest data from Office for National Statistics indicates men are three times more likely to die by suicide than the national average for men in England and Wales if they work in the construction industry, with construction workers nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than in other sectors.

In 2021 alone, 507 construction workers took their own lives, which is equivalent to two workers every day, according to British Medical Council, and equates to 34 people per 100,000 in employment. This is an increase from 26 per 100,000 seven years ago.

Culture and Industry Behaviour

Startling statistics, but why is the sector so acutely affected by poor mental health? Mates in Mind, a charity which supports mental health across the construction industry, believes that a traditionally ‘macho’ culture, along with a variety of other pressures including tight contracts, long hours, time away from loved-ones and managing budgets, all contribute to an environment which makes positive mental health a struggle for a lot of men.

Compounding this have been the added stresses from the pandemic, along with rising costs of supplies, along with a culture of acceptance for bullying. The latest TUC Trades union health and safety reps survey report reveals that harassment and bullying is the second biggest concern across employees working in construction after stress, with violence and verbal abuse increasing in recent years.

With a third of construction workers suffering from elevated levels of anxiety every day, what can we do as an affiliate industry to support this section of our workforce?

Drivers for change

Cultural change, especially across an industry that has traditionally held tight to conventionally accepted patterns and behaviours, can be difficult. However, education and training, along with modern leadership and governance, are key when it comes to driving lasting positive change. It is vital for sector leaders to model the behaviour that sets the standards which create positive working environments. This includes embedding a culture of support, along with a policy of no-tolerance to bullying and harassment so that employees feel safe to come to work, and empowered to do their job effectively.

Taking action

Taking affirmative action is key – utilising the support and expertise of charities and networks such as Mates in Mind, who offer assessments, mental health awareness courses and counselling, can make a huge difference to how workplace stress and mental health is managed.

The Clive Smith Foundation also offers understanding and support to people experiencing mental health problems, particularly in the housing and construction sectors, and has some useful contacts for those suffering from stress or suicidal thoughts.

Investing in an organisational wellbeing strategy has been normalised across most industries now, and should no longer be perceived as a ‘non-masculine’ offer for traditionally male dominated industries. It has become a ‘must have’ benefit for every industry sector in order to compete effectively in today’s skills-starved market, and is a strong driver for attraction, retainment and productivity across every business segment.

In essence, protecting the mental health of those who are most vulnerable across our male dominated industries benefits everyone. It’s time for our industry leaders to get on board, speak up and drive the behavioural changes needed to support this much needed, much valued workforce.

What will you be doing this November to support positive mental health for men?

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