How men are taught that their mental health doesn’t matter - we can change that

Published date
The last few years we’ve probably all noticed that it has become more acceptable, maybe even fashionable to talk about mental health. But are we really talking? And then what? Are we following up with actions to make our mental health better? Or are we just following the same destructive pattern of damaging our mental health but this time, talking about it as we do it anyway?

Many men feel the unfair burden that’s been placed on them. Growing up we are told to ‘toughen up, be a man’, or, when facing tough times, we’re told ‘boys don’t cry’. From a young age, boys are socialised to show that we are strong and in control and girls are taught to care and look after others. These roles form our reality as we get older and can have damaging consequences for all of us.

As men, we’re more likely to feel a pressure to be the breadwinner and, in relationship breakdowns, we’re more likely to be separated from our children. For many men, conversations can be ocean wide but puddle deep, only ever touching the surface of what’s really wrong.

This culture of not expressing our mental health delays or stops us from accessing help. This can sometimes lead us towards harmful coping mechanisms such as dependency on alcohol, drugs or gambling. Tragically, too many have paid the ultimate price as suicide rates are higher for men.

How men are taught that their mental health doesn’t matter - we can change that

Our culture needs to change

From birth, boys and girls need to be told it is good to look after yourself and others, and it’s normal to cry and ask for help. As men we have privileges but that doesn’t exclude us from feeling like we’re falling.

We may know how to talk in meetings, but not know how to express our feelings through talking. We may look confident and in control, but that can be a mask for the man that needs help.

Our workplace is a community too and, as Trade Unionists, we can help shape the culture in work, putting mental health on the agenda, and making listening to each other and providing care and support a key part of everyday work life.

Men's mental health at work

Work takes up a significant amount of our time, and if your workplace doesn’t care about mental health then the workforce will get ill. Policies and papers are a good start, but actions and talking are where the real work is needed.

Group discussions and support opportunities are important. Access to free therapy is fundamental. Promoting good wellbeing and self-care is vital and paid leave without fear of losing your job if you are going through tough times is crucial.

Watch our Coping with Covid videos for wellbeing a self-care advice during these difficult times.

Wales TUC will soon be launching a mental health toolkit. It contains help and information for making your workplace more supportive and healthier on mental health.

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It's OK to not be OK and your workplace needs to know this and do something about it.