Strong Inside and Out: Navigating Men’s Mental Wellness

“Be A Man”. We often hear this phrase as a form of encouragement and motivation to do something that is challenging. Masculinity is referred to as a trait that defines a person to be fierce, strong and confident and to do what he is unable/afraid to do. It’s time to be a man and address mental health as confidently as that most deserving promotion you got!

Human beings are inherently social creatures. The fundamental requirement of having a social circle, where individuals engage in various forms of communication and interact with others of their species, is vital for the very existence of humanity. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a dystopian scenario where people were confined to their homes, compelling them to reconsider how they could maintain human connections.

In response to this challenge, the internet emerged as a temporary solution, facilitating the transition of various aspects of human life, including social interactions, education, and work, to the online realm. However, this shift was not without its drawbacks. Many individuals experienced what can be described as “laptop fatigue,” along with a range of other issues, including mental health concerns. This is because humans are inherently ill-equipped, from a genetic standpoint, to cope with a life devoid of essential human connections.

As the pandemic’s devastating effects began to diminish, there was hope that humans could resume their usual way of life. However, for some countries, months and even years of lockdowns made the return to normalcy a formidable challenge. After extended periods of adapting to working from the safety of their own spaces, many individuals now find it challenging to engage in casual conversations or to function effectively in office environments. This prolonged adjustment to an altered routine has taken a toll on the mental well-being of the population, subjecting them to yet another significant period of adaptation.

You must be wondering how is this relevant to the mental health of men?

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), it was estimated that in 2019, 15% of adults in the working-age population were affected by a mental disorder. Globally, an astonishing 12 billion working days are lost annually due to depression and anxiety, resulting in a staggering cost of US$1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

China, as the most populous country until 2023, stands out in this context. According to WHO, approximately 54 million people in China grapple with depression, while about 41 million contend with anxiety disorders. The percentage of the Chinese population affected by mental health issues exceeds 12% of the global figure. It’s important to note that this data pertains to just one country.

In India, the most populous country since 2023, a survey conducted by the Aditya Birla Education Trust revealed that nearly 48% of corporate employees struggle with mental health concerns. Notably, women are more susceptible to high mental health risks, with 56% facing challenges in contrast to 41% of men.

And 41% is a figure valid enough for us to take an immediate action.

So how can we tackle the mental health issues of the male employees?

  • Prioritize emotional well-being as the central focus, whether you’re considering the preferences of new job applicants or engaging with your current employees. It’s time to move away from the traditional, reactive approach commonly seen in employee assistance programs (EAP).
  • Embrace flexibility in your approaches. Working fathers and mothers often share similar responsibilities and require the flexibility that is sometimes lacking. The hybrid work model has underscored the need for this flexibility, making it a crucial aspect of responsible organizational practices.
  • Organizations and managers should create an environment where male employees feel comfortable expressing their work styles. Forcing them into patterns they don’t align with can negatively impact their engagement, communication with peers, and overall productivity.
  • Offer psychoeducation that emphasizes that emotional struggles are not limited by gender. If someone is emotionally vulnerable, they should have access to appropriate resources without fearing the loss of peer support.
  • Normalize discussions around gender and gender expression to foster better relationships among male colleagues and peers in general.
  • Encourage men to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. In the workplace, men often struggle with professional boundaries or compassion, exposing them to judgmental or derogatory remarks while feeling obligated to accept such behavior (often referred to as the “bro code” or avoiding conflict).
  • Promote the practice of disconnecting from work, even if it’s just for short periods, as a matter of discipline. It’s a common misconception that the world will collapse if emails or messages aren’t answered within a minute.

Furthermore, one of our recent studies conducted in 2020 revealed that 84% of working professionals in India consider having an empathetic team and manager as one of their top requirements for returning to work post-pandemic.

Let us actively promote mental health among our employees, encouraging them to take days off when needed. We can provide access to a counselor who is available to lend a listening ear and offer practical guidance. Additionally, we can organize staycations and workcations for our teams, recognizing that a change of environment can significantly uplift their spirits and provide a valuable respite from the monotony of remote work. Moreover, employees have the flexibility to choose when to work from the office, ensuring that appropriate precautions are in place to guarantee their safety.

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