International Men’s Day takes place annually on November 19th. Despite being dismissed by some as unnecessary compared to other awareness moments, like International Women’s Day or Black History Month, there remains a strong and resounding need for the day, which is to tackle toxic stereotypes and spotlight progressive forms of masculinity. Toxic masculinity is defined as “a set of attitudes and ways of behaving stereotypically associated with or expected of men”, and it can have a huge impact on the daily lives of men around the world, especially in terms of their mental health.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), in high income countries, three times as many men die from suicide as women. In the very same report, WHO explains that one of the main barriers to men having conversations about their mental health and receiving help is stigma. There is a pervasive cultural and societal stigma that links masculinity and mental health, and acts as a barrier to men having these conversations – and the results are shocking.
In corporate workplace settings, toxic masculinity often manifests itself where income and revenue are equated with success, and where men are overrepresented in leadership roles. The relentless pressure in high-powered roles, where success and masculinity are viewed as intrinsically linked, can hold grave dangers for men’s mental health. When this is paired with mental health stigma, it’s no wonder that the Office for National Statistics last year reported that the suicide rate for men in England and Wales was the highest it has been for two decades.
On International Men’s Day this year, it’s important to remain solutions-focused, looking at the landscape of men’s mental health as it stands but also keeping in mind what can be done to provide tangible support to men in this space. Businesses have a key role to play in breaking down harmful stereotypes about masculinity and showcasing broader, healthier forms of leadership that are both empathetic and understanding.
Most importantly of all, workplaces can take the lead in tackling the stigma that surrounds conversations about mental health, especially for men, to open discussions in this space and provide men with the help that they truly need. Maximising an Employee Assistance Programme and signposting men to this can be a great way to start, as can creating a men’s support network within your business. Holding these sessions via Zoom can allow men to access support anonymously as well, which can be a big motivational factor for joining.
Finally, harnessing the power of personal storytelling to encourage conversations around mental health can be transformative. If there are any male employees within your business who feel comfortable sharing their personal experience with mental health, spotlighting this can encourage more men to let their guard down and speak about their mental health too.
Tackling toxic masculinity and supporting men’s mental health needs to be a core focus for us all on International Men’s Day. Ultimately, supporting the mental health of male employees will not only prove beneficial for the men in the workforce, but for the women in their lives too.
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