Men still face stigma around getting help for mental health at work: Study

HR leaders play a vital role in encouraging employees to get help

Men still face stigma around getting help for mental health at work: Study

New data has revealed that men are twice as likely as women to need prompting by a partner or family member for them to access mental health and wellbeing support at work.

The research by AccessEAP shows that despite 1 in 8 men experiencing depression in their life at some point, there is still a significant stigma around asking for help. As well as friends, family and colleagues, HR professionals play a vital role in encouraging men in the workforce to get help and make sure resources are as accessible as possible.

According to the findings, less than a third (31%) of those accessing support services through work are male. Of those who do ask for help, only 66% of men self-refer for mental health support in the workplace, compared to 74% of women.

Speaking to HRD, Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP, said despite positive progress, it’s clear that societal barriers to accessing support still exist and they’re particularly strong for men. The classic Aussie idiom of men ‘doing it tough’ only perpetuates the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness – when in fact, it is often the bravest step a person can take.

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“It’s so important that we create these environments where men feel safe and comfortable to have honest conversations with those that can help,” she said. “When considering mental health and wellbeing support in the workplace, we must be conscious of the type of support we’re providing. Whether it’s over-the-phone counselling or speaking to someone through an instant-chat service, support should be tailored to help people be their best in life and at work.”

AccessEAP’s records show telephone support is more popular than face-to-face communication. By removing the need for eye contact and creating a sense of anonymity, people find it easier to talk about what’s going on – especially in their initial contact.

Slepica said HRDs should be working closely with their EAP provider to tailor different avenues of support, depending on the make-up of their workforce. EAPs can help to deliver programs specifically targeted for men, provide toolkits of resources and run learning and development sessions to kickstart the conversation around mental health in the workplace.

“Normalising conversations is the first step to breaking down barriers for accessing support,” she said. “We should be encouraging men to talk about how they are feeling and about anything that may be negatively impacting them in life or at work by creating spaces that provide an opportunity to do so. This is important not only for HR professionals but also leaders, friends, family members and peers.”

Read more: Mental health: Are employees 'too busy' to seek help?

Last week marked Men’s Health Week in Australia, an initiative aimed at driving awareness around the issue, sparking conversations, and promoting access to support. For the last decade in Australia, the number of men who have committed suicide has been three times higher than that of females.

To access crisis support and guidance in Australia, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. In New Zealand, free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

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