Mind, a mental health charity, recently conducted a large survey of 15,000 employees across 30 organizations. When separating the results by gender, they found an alarming statistic. One in three men who reported having poor mental health believed that it was due to their job. Essentially, men are twice as likely to have mental health issues related to work, rather than related to problems outside of work.
What’s even more striking is that these men who are struggling with work-related mental health issues do not tend to seek help from their employers – or from anyone else for that matter. They often don’t even ask to take sick time when they most need it. This combination of circumstances leaves them in a lonely battle against a complex and formidable opponent – their own mind.
The Pressure to Succeed
Although gender roles have substantially changed over the past century in the West, many men still feel the pressure to be perceived as successful in some capacity outside the home. However, it is worth noting that there is a growing minority of men who feel confident, capable, and at peace being stay-at-home-dads – a worthwhile and significant endeavor. That said, the cultural and evolutionary tendency is for men to “win bread” for their families outside the home.
But here’s the thing: it’s becoming tougher and tougher to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living. People are buying their first homes much later in life than ever before in modern history, and many find themselves with large sums of debt that they will be paying off for years to come. Some even declare bankruptcy. And so the pressure mounts on men and their insatiable desire to succeed outside the home.
Stretched Too Thin
At the same time that many men feel the need to be the primary breadwinner, they are also taking on more significant roles at home. While there have been many past discussions about the stress associated with women’s many roles inside and outside the home, there has been little acknowledgment of the stress men feel as they take on a larger presence in the home yet maintain significant responsibilities outside the home.
In addition, while an increasing number of women prioritize self-care techniques to manage and reduce stress, few men take the time. When men exercise, it tends to be adrenaline-pumping, intense workouts rather than a more relaxing yoga class. Again, this combination of factors is creating a culture in which men are stretched too thin and wound too tight with no outlet in sight.
Competition in the Workplace
Another important factor to consider is that men tend to land jobs that feature a competitive atmosphere, such as a car salesmen, construction worker, or banker. When men work in these traditionally macho cultures, they may not feel as though they can be open and vulnerable. Instead, they pretend that everything is okay, refuse to show weakness, and continue to close one big deal after another – but inside they desperately want a way out of the rat race.
That being said, poll data from Mind shows that a majority of managers feel confident supporting an employee who opened up about mental health issues. The trend is that workplaces are making mental health a priority. Even so, workplaces can’t help employees who aren’t willing to divulge their inner struggles.
Opening up about mental health issues is difficult for anyone. In the past, mental disorders were perceived as a sign of weakness or craziness. Even though this stereotype is gradually changing (and thank goodness!), few people wish for their mental health issues to be public knowledge. And men tend to be even more tight-lipped about it than women.
Prior research conducted by Mind revealed that men try to deal with problems independently rather than seek help. That is, just as many men keep driving even when they are lost, refusing to pull over and ask for directions, they do the same in the game of life – setting their jaw and continuing on a dead-end path so as to appear confident and in control.
The result? Rather than sharing their troubles with a strong support system (the healthy thing to do), many men resort to self-medication, in the form of TV, exercise, sex, alcohol, or drugs. These negative coping mechanisms tend to exacerbate already existent mental health challenges.
Bhatia Psychology Group can Help
If you are struggling with mental health issues, or an employer who wants to prioritize workplace mental health, our trained professionals can provide exactly what you need.