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Men, it’s time to start talking

Men, it’s time to start talking

This week is Men’s Health Week (13-19 June). It is all about promoting men’s health and wellbeing, yet one of the biggest challenges is the fact that Australian men are not opening up. As this culture of stoicism continues to rise, we should be encouraging men to reach out and discuss their feelings with others in both their professional and personal lives.

Unlike their female counterparts, men are unlikely to seek assistance or ask for help from healthcare professionals, but are just as likely to experience the same feelings of stress, loneliness and depression that women feel. Our data shows 33 percent of Australian men list anxiety as their top presenting personal issue, followed by 23 percent listing depression. As for presenting workplace issues, 16 percent of Australian men put stress at the top of their list, followed by 10 percent listing career concerns as their number two. These issues are impacting productivity and concentration levels in the workplace.

Men’s Health Week encourages men to communicate with peers, family and friends which is fundamental to improving their mental health. A 2014 study by Beyond Blue showed that men become increasingly isolated by the time they reach their 30’s . Men’s priorities tend to change with age and with that come work commitments, longer hours and the possibility of family commitments. It is often difficult to keep in touch with friends and invest time in hobbies, which can lead to a lack of social connection. Without someone to talk to about the demands of a stressful job, long hours or family troubles, these everyday stresses can develop into something much more serious.

We are urging employers and employees to educate themselves about the behaviours that may indicate a colleague is going through a tough time, and encourage them to seek help if concerned for their wellbeing. There is still much work to be done to get men talking about their issues and they need to understand these can have an impact on multiple areas of their lives.

By offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), employers can encourage their employees to speak to someone in confidence and not affiliated with their workplace.

It is important to face the stigma. Men need to recognise what is going on in their lives in order for them to begin dealing with their stresses, emotions or worries. Just as a football coach would help develop a footballer’s skills on the field, AccessEAP coaches individuals on developing coping strategies, ways of thinking and how to work through tough times. These are life skills that can be learned and used when needed.

Here are some tips to help men reach out in times of need:

  • Take action sooner rather than later. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today when it comes to mental health.
  • Seeking help is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • Maintain social contact. Keep in touch with family and friends.
  • Make self-care a priority. Set goals for sleep, exercise and “me” time. You can’t look after those around you if you can’t look after yourself.
  • Remember that the best health can be achieved with looking after both your physical and mental health. See your GP for regular check ups and address health issues if and when they present.
  • Ask for support. Challenging life events happen to us all at some point, no one is immune. Equipping yourself with the tools and strategies you need to cope with life’s events can be learned. Start with your EAP and a confidential appointment to start kitting up.