International Men's Day 2022
TW below: This article covers sensitive topics around men’s health and wellbeing.
As I write this, it's early November. In a few days’ time it will be International Men's Day, where the theme for 2022 is entitled "Helping Men & Boys".
The day should be a celebration of men, as positive role models and highlight the value we, as men, bring to the world via our interactions with our families and our wider communities, be it in a business or social setting. While reading materials in preparation for the content of this article, I came across some statistics, which I keep returning to time and time again:
- Men have a suicide rate 3 times higher than that of women
- 1 in 3 men have been a victim of domestic violence
- Men on average die 4-5 years younger than women
- Men are twice as likely to suffer from lung cancer than women
- Men are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease than women
The majority of us that read this article will be involved in the banking sector, be it front line or behind the scenes, and as such we all know that we can make statistics suit a narrative. However, the above list cannot be manipulated and one point in particular sits heavily with me. In fact, it has sat with me for a number of days, as I considered what I wanted to write. I think about it when I am at work, when driving home and even when running..."Men have a suicide rate 3 times higher than that of women".
My mind jumps around as to why? What would cause a man to take his own life? Who were these men? Why did they not seek or ask for help? I try to rationalise it by thinking about challenging times in my own career and in part retrace my thirty years within the industry.
I think of times when I was new, I was deeply stressed due to the constant pressures of work. Times when I was evidencing high engagement with work, but not seeing the high level of performance one would expect in return. Importantly, I recall my own actions and thoughts during these times, in and out of the workplace.
As men, we must be honest with ourselves. We will all experience stressful and challenging times. We will all make decisions during these times which we would not normally make. Importantly we also all know, and can identify someone that has or is currently experiencing these issues. Our question to ourselves should be, have we tried to help? Have we tried to make a difference?
Our collective goal, for this International Men's Day should be as the title suggests to "Help Men & Boys". We must support each other, to ensure that when needed we obtain the support and aid required. We must focus not only upon our present mental health, but also upon our future health, by way of prevention. In short we must all seek to bring down that statistic, which has weighed so heavily on my mind.
So rather than celebrate International Men's Day, as I intended to do. I am going to focus upon providing some outline guidance for dealing with men within your work environment. Perhaps this could be used as short guide for line managers, team leaders or just to help show support for our colleagues.
- Focus upon Prevention: When stressed it can be very difficult for men to turn off thoughts and feelings, and work and home life can often become unbalanced. Therefore encourage breaks in the working day, holidays and down time. Encourage people to exercise and focus upon the physical as well as the mental side of their health.
- Encourage regular health checks: Make sure all staff are aware, and regularly updated, on the support and annual health benefits, offered within your organisation, including where they can obtain a health check and the counselling or support services that are available.
- Ensure that we have regular check ins: A shifting pattern has seen more of our staff work from home, where they can feel isolated. Make sure that you and members of your team regularly check in. Encourage your staff to meet for coffee to just chat or if they are working remotely that they join via video chat.
- Encourage interaction via recognition: In working in a mixed team, remember that men and women have different requirements. Most men feel the requirement to be recognised for who they are, for what they are doing, and for the impact they have. Ensure you celebrate success, where merited.
- Set achievable performance goals: Make sure that men are engaged and motivated when setting goals and measuring performance for the coming year. Men do not like to feel that they are not heard or seen. They also do not like the embarrassment of what is viewed as failure. That said they enjoy being challenged, and proving themselves, so targets should be achievable yet encourage development.
- Provide an environment which provides confidentiality: Men engage more openly when they have a safe and confidential environment within which to talk. So if the subject is private or sensitive, make sure discretion is used. Perhaps hold the meeting off site, in a private room, or even by walking side by side to make the conversation less intimidating.
- Ask, ask and ask again: If you feel that something is just not quite right with your colleague then ask, ask and ask again. Most men will within a work environment say they are alright, when in fact that could not be further from the truth. So don't be afraid to ask over and over. But perhaps, be mindful and ask the question in a different way and make sure you are prepared and in an environment to really listen to their answer.
So this International Men's Day, my message to you would be that we spend a lot of our lives with our work colleagues. Many become close friends, even friends for life so let’s make sure that if we see anyone struggling no matter how insignificant it may seem, that we take the time out to make sure they are well. That simple question may just allow them to re-centre and focus before it is too late.