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A Father’s Day Special – Mental Health, Don’t Simply Bear It!

“A man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it - Because he’s a man.

Gustavo Fring - Breaking Bad


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, with suicide one of the highest causes of death for men under the age of 35…but why? 

Society categorises masculinity as:

  • Strength
  • Independence
  • Courage
  • Toughness
  • The breadwinner
  • A champion

These preconceived ideas of what it means to be a man have been cemented firmly in Australian culture. As a result, it is hardly surprising mental health problems are escalating in young Australian males, especially in the workforce.

How do you know?

The difficulty is that everyone handles mental health differently. As a colleague or the boss you should be looking for any signs that indicate that one of your workmates is acting out of character.

Signs may include:

  1. A drop in productivity with targets or outcomes easily reached in the past, now being missed;
  2. Morale seems different, usual workplace banter, chitchat or office presence is out of character or feels a tad off. This could include both a change in extraverted or introverted characteristics;
  3. They are often arriving at work late;  
  4. They have unexplained absences from work;
  5. They are showing a lack of interest in topics or activities that once created interest; and
  6. They appear disengaged/ unmotivated.

For those employees you know well and have worked with regularly, trust your gut feeling - if something feels off, follow your intuition.

What can you do?  

As an employer you need to generate open conversation and communication with men about mental health. By doing this we can help break down the taboo associated with mental health and treatment.

Employers should:  

  1. Safeguard staff wellbeing by creating and implementing a mental health/ health and welling policy and procedure;
  2. Appoint role models who show leadership and set a good example for others -  it’s one thing to have the proper policies in place and another to have someone charging the way especially in male dominated industries;
  3. Have a well-established mechanism for addressing mental health problems, for example internal or external support through a confidential employer assistant program; and
  4. Make use of tools such as the Beyond Blue Anxiety and depression checklist (K10). The checklist is completely confidential and can give an employee some context on how they are feeling. It has been proven that men often only recognise the physical symptoms in mental health and this tool is very helpful in identifying and quantifying these physical symptoms. 

Start a conversation

As employers we must make it clear the worst possible thing to do when someone is feeling blue or out of place is to simply rock up to work and bear it – this is not a healthy, long-term solution. 

We can encourage senior leaders and role models to be accessible, and as colleagues we can each take responsibility to check–in and open up discussion on mental health. Better yet, generate a workplace culture that promotes support and conversation.  

Don’t bear it, talk about it.

13th September 2018 marks national R U OK? Day in Australia. R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity working to ensure everyone feels connected and is protected from suicide. R U OK? promotes conversations around mental health by starting conversations that could potentially change a life:

  1. Ask R U OK?
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage Action
  4. Check in

The best way to develop a culture supportive of mental health is to get involved find out more at their website www.ruok.org.au

If you or anyone you know needs help please contact:   

  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
  • Suicide Call Back Service– 1300 659 467

Contact WCA - People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/ or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

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