How to support your male employees' mental health the right way

How to support your male employees' mental health the right way
This International Men's Day, take time to understand how we as a society tend to blindside men's mental health and what we can do to support our male colleagues at work.

Tomorrow is International Men’s Day, one of the many things related to men that is less talked about and celebrated. But how does this come to happen in a world where there are major patriarchal societies?

For men, with authority, there came an overbearing sense of responsibility and the need to provide. Long back when human beings primarily relied on hunting to satisfy their basic needs of hunger, men were the ones to go out to hunt and provide food for the family, while the women would take care of the household chores.

With changing times, the roles and duties have changed for both men and women. But the society’s collective conscience still indicates otherwise.

Biologically men have different proportions in shape, size, and other forms which makes them perceived as ‘stronger’ and ‘tougher’. This not only applies to their physiology but their emotional exterior too.

Men have always been perceived to be the ‘breadwinners’ or the ‘providers for the family’ and that is reflected in the vocabulary that we hear as well. We frequently hear things like ‘the man of the house’ because that speaks a sense of solid responsibility and reliability. While these are good qualities to have, they often put men in a difficult spot where they’re constantly scrutinized. It overlooks the basic fact that they’re human too. 

The societal norms and assigned gender roles confine specific genders to specific duties and responsibilities. Right from the beginning you can see this difference in the systems that are made for example in education, transport, government regulations, etc. India is no exception to this either.

In India, there are many parts of the country where a woman is considered ‘unsafe’ or ‘incompetent’ to even go out of the house alone without a man accompanying her.

Behaviors like this are a double-edged sword as they harm both men and women. Especially in patriarchal societies, due to men’s perceived tougher exterior, their emotional landscape always remains under-explored. Their emotional expressions are often dismissed and sometimes even mocked. 

Struggles faced by men on the professional front

Assumption of role

During project assignments, when it comes to work transfers or relocation male government employees are assumed to relocate with ease rather than female employees. It is often assumed that a man can adjust easily and doesn’t have household responsibilities that he needs to take care of. 

While talking about challenges, Prayag Naidu, Counselling Psychologist at Manah Wellness added a crucial point. He mentioned that for people in authority, being vulnerable comes at an even greater risk because the leader, especially a male leader is always expected to be strong and influential. He’s always expected to do the ‘right thing’ as everyone’s eyes are on him. Talking about difficulties or emotions can make a leader look ‘weak’ and ‘powerless’.”

Lack of safe spaces to open up

While women are stereotyped as emotional, men have been stereotyped for being ‘pragmatic’, ‘cold’, and sometimes even ‘insensitive’. These stereotypes have led large groups everywhere to misperceive men as someone self-sufficient. This creates a wall of defense mechanisms and an inability to share and express.

You can often see this in a lot of conversations where men are told to ‘buckle up’, to ‘be a man’, and to ‘stop crying like a girl’. The narrative has seen some shifts in recent years but there are still major parts of the country where this is true. 

How to overcome the barriers in seeking help?

Before we explore the resources, it is important to first look at men not as fathers, husbands, sons, managers, or employees but as humans. Only when you first look at men beyond their gender and acknowledge their human-ness can you provide them the support they need.

Next time you see any man you know, ask them when was the last time they did something for themselves and not because the society ‘expected’ them to do it. 

Helpful ways in which organizations can do their part in supporting men

Make a connection

Organizations along with the help of Mental Health Professionals can offer focused group sessions. These sessions are facilitated exclusively for men to gather and talk openly about a common theme. Once they become comfortable, everyone else can join the group and understand men’s perspectives through their lens. This will allow a safe space for men to be vulnerable and also will help everyone else understand men’s struggles through their lens. 

Give them time

It is very important to understand that men will open up differently than women. They may not speak extensively. Due to social conditioning, the majority of men are used to internalizing their problems and not voicing out their struggles. Be patient and allow them to feel comfortable. Challenging the stereotype of ‘masculinity’ is a big move and it takes a while for everyone to adjust to that. 

Non-verbal activities and reflections

Since talking about problems can be new or even ‘strange’ for some men in the beginning, you can offer them to indulge in non-verbal forms of expressions instead. Art-based activities or dance movement therapeutic activities use non-verbal gestures and forms of creativity and imagination. These activities are usually followed by a debrief that makes one reflect and realize the underlying concept.

Mental Health Experts at Manah Wellness conceptualize and curate specific programs that you can enroll in and they can allow you a great opportunity to start your well-being journey. 

Allow and acknowledge vulnerability

Leaders indeed need to be in a motivating and strong position for others to feel inspired and encouraged. But if you feel like sharing your failures or talking about your lows, do not hold yourself back. When a person in a powerful position chooses to be vulnerable, it’s not just an act but a powerful statement. It reassures others that you too go through struggles. 

Remember no matter how small the effort is, it always counts. Every small change you make counts. Let’s celebrate the men in our lives. We wish you all a very happy International Men’s Day.