Female employees are twice as likely to access mental health support as male colleagues (Champion Health: The Workplace Health Report 2023). With this in mind, Melissa Day, Therapist and Suicide First Aid Tutor, suggests eight ways that firms can encourage their male employees to seek help for their mental health.
This instantly sets your company’s tone: that support is readily available. This lets employees know that bringing their challenges to you is possible. Ensure that the space you create is one of safety, confidentiality, non-judgement – and complete privacy.
Make sure that you come across as being reachable and attainable and have time to listen, despite your role and commitments – and that your manner is approachable and engaging in meaningful dialogue.
Lead by example
Rest and recovery are essential for us to function at sustainable high performance. Research shows that work-related stress and burnout cost the UK economy £28bn a year, resulting in 23.3m sick days. Burnout is when we don’t have enough inner resources to carry tasks through, resulting from chronic workplace stress.
If we see evidence of employers applying a proactive approach of including rest and recovery into their daily routines, this provides a template for employees to follow.
Make it a priority to have well-being conversations that talk about burnout in-depth. Opening this discussion will encourage employees to identify symptoms and allow anyone to talk about challenges they may face.
No reprisal policy
It’s paramount that employees understand that your company has a “no reprisal policy” when it comes to speaking about work-related struggles. The prominent factor responsible for mental distress is unmanageable workloads. It’s therefore of high importance to organise regular check-ins.
Make sure that the employee understands what their job responsibilities are. You may find they have been taking on additional tasks that are not part of their role or taking work home.
If there are specific areas that they are struggling with, whether it’s the nature of certain tasks or the scale of the workload, ensure they feel able to speak openly about what they feel their capabilities are. Find out if team members support them and ascertain what assignments would be helpful to share or work collaboratively on.
Invite professionals into the office space, be that Inner Child Therapists, Psychologists or Counsellors. It’s good to have a range of different specialists, as people will resonate with different personalities and approaches. Provide the option of monthly group therapy sessions and one-to-one support. This will promote a company standard that well-being is prioritised.
Make it clear what additional support is available, such as traditional helplines, text support and free 24/7 mental health support and that you are in a position to help signpost. This provides employees with a choice to access support if they wish to. Creating opportunities demonstrates that mental health is embedded in your company values.
Suicide first aid training and first steps to counselling skills
It’s said that what people value above food and shelter is to be heard. At the very basic level, of being in a position to be able to offer support, whether by signposting, finding work solutions to best meet someone’s needs – such as giving the option to do hybrid work – or finding solutions to help employees manage their workload: employers need listening skills. It sounds obvious and simple, but it’s a skill and a complete necessity.
Undertaking a qualification in Suicide First Aid is a proactive way for employers to learn more about the topic and be in a better position to offer support: able to identify signs that someone in the workplace is in crisis or understand what use of language and terminology is helpful, to say to someone who may have suicidal ideation or for someone bereaved through suicide. Ensure you include education about suicide in your well-being conversations.
The number of employees experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm has increased from 8% last year to 9% this year. This means that in every 1,000 employees, 90 people have these thoughts – 10 more people than last year.
Data shows little difference between male and female employees, having thoughts of suicide or self-harm – but what is significantly different is that female employees are twice as likely to access mental health support compared to male colleagues. (Champion Health: The Workplace Health Report 2023). Research from the Samaritans reveals that middle-aged men are more likely to die by suicide than any other age group. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years in the UK.
Making your support visible within the office environment makes the subject of mental health less stigmatised and taboo and more normalised. Show all services available. Provide well-being credentials of each employer, such as training undertaken. This will make you far more approachable, and employees will feel they can choose who best to approach with their challenge or concern. Make your role and what you are there to provide clear. Ensure there are clear steps for what to expect once they seek your support, with a plan, timeline and check-ins.
Special guest speakers
Hearing people’s first-hand experiences with mental health can be a powerful way to encourage and open up dialogue. Stories are a way to share information to create emotional connections and unite people. After the talk, open the space to invite questions.
Feeling a sense of inclusion, connection and belonging with fellow employees – feeling part of a team – and supported by companies is imperative for psychological well-being. In turn, this positively contributes towards productivity and job satisfaction. Did you know there’s a connection between perceived psychosocial stress in the workplace and heart attacks? Psychosocial stress is related to circumstances where we don’t feel as if we belong, are not good enough, and feel excluded.
Clinical investigation reveals that heart attacks are statistically more likely on Mondays. This data highlights the stark reality of the impact of our mental well-being on our physical health and that, as a species, our survival relies on connection with others.
Acknowledge people’s strengths: Show your gratitude as a reward. Employees want to feel that their work and conduct themselves make a valuable and positive contribution to the organisation’s success. You could say how grateful you are for the employees’ unique qualities. This will show that you do “see” them.
For example, if an employee is particularly caring towards a client, acknowledge that you are grateful for their kindness and thought and make them aware of how their actions may have positively impacted that client and, in turn, will have given a professional and caring impression of the company.
Melissa Day, Therapist and Suicide First Aid Tutor says: “Employees and employers being proactive about their self-care, as well as companies being vigilant about creating psychologically safe work environments, starts with a business culture built upon openness and kindness – that encourages well-being conversations.”
Melissa Day provides Suicide First Aid Training, Level 4, accredited by City & Guilds. This one-day course for corporate companies and businesses is known as the “Gold Standard” in suicide intervention training. It’s delivered via Zoom for a maximum of 16 participants and teaches skills that can be applied in both personal and professional environments.