Did you know that 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace? Increasingly, employers are trying to take action on mental ill-health. However, this can be complex because many people struggle to be open about this topic. And men are less likely to talk about mental health than women. This poses a particular challenge for transport and logistics employers, with majority male workforces.
November is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, so we will look at some of the factors that attach stigma to mental ill-health. Importantly, we will also look at what can be done to address mental health awareness in the workplace.
Why do men suffer in silence?
Research by the Mental Health Foundation shows that 28% of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced compared to 19% of women. That means a third of men experiencing mental health issues are not receiving support and treatment. So, what are the reasons why they don’t speak out on mental ill-health?
Historically, mental ill-health has, wrongly, been discriminated against. Generations have been conditioned via art, literature, and media that mental health issues mean you’re ‘crazy’ and will be treated as such. Derogatory terms relating to mental health, such as ‘psycho’, ‘crackpot’, or ‘freak’ also exacerbate the embarrassment people may feel around having a mental health concern.
There have also been assumed correlations between mental ill-health and criminality, which those who are affected by mental ill-health understandably don’t want to be associated with.
Many also suggest that men specifically do not speak out because of pressure for men to be ‘strong’ and therefore unemotional. For many years, media and society have portrayed mental illnesses as a sign of weakness.
Things are changing
However, in recent years, numerous campaigns have aimed to reduce the stigma around mental ill-health. Many celebrities, from sportspeople to influencers to movie stars, have also been open about their own mental health struggles. Helping to slowly break the taboo around conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and phobias.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also prioritised dealing with work-related stress. This is because it has been shown to be a possible trigger to other mental health issues.
Understanding the cause
One of the first steps in normalising conversations around mental health is to improve understanding of the causes of mental ill-health. One effective way to do this in logistics and transport operations can be via Driver CPC Periodic Training.
This can be an opportunity to increase mental health awareness among LGV/HGV and PCV/PSV drivers. It can empower them both with the knowledge to support others, and the understanding of when to speak up when they are in need of support. The training module ‘Improving Drivers Understanding of Mental Health’ is now available to members of the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium.
Mental ill-health can be influenced by many things. Yet it is not always possible to identify the specific cause or causes. As we have already discussed, stress can be a trigger for some. However, other factors that may cause mental ill-health are:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Drug/alcohol misuse
- Financial pressure
- Traumatic experiences
- Physical illnesses or disabilities
Evidence also suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition to some mental illnesses. However, this is not conclusive.
There is help for mental ill-health
For those that seek support for their mental health concerns, a range of different help is available. Usually this will start with a GP, who will assess the mental ill-health issue very similarly as they would a physical health problem. Often a GP can provide treatment for mental ill-health. Sometimes they may refer the patient to a specialist.
Treatments may include therapy. Talking to a therapist can help some people to better understand their feelings, and in turn help them to think differently. Others may treat mental ill-health with prescription medications, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. These alter your brain chemistry in a way that may help positively impact your mood.
In severe cases of conditions such as depression, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may be used. Small electric currents are sent through the brain to trigger brief seizures. The therapy relieves symptoms of mental health problems, but experts are still unsure as to why exactly it works.
There are many other combinations of treatment options available for mental ill-health depending on the nature of the problem. You can learn more about other treatments for mental ill-health on the NHS website. However, just like a physical illness, a mental health illness diagnosis is not necessarily a life sentence.
Different conditions can last different lengths of time, and this also varies from person to person. From months to decades. However, many will experience only brief spells of mental ill-health without it recurring in the future. The important thing is that people get the right help and support they need. While some problems may go away on their own, others will worsen over time if left untreated.
What can I do?
By reading this article, you may have just taken the first step in improving your mental health awareness. Perhaps your colleagues, drivers, or those you train would benefit from reading this too? Why not share it with them now.
In the bigger picture of your company, there are also steps you should consider. After all, as an employer you have a duty of care to employees and that includes their mental health.
Some companies may consider training a Mental Health First Aider. (Just as you would have a first aider on site for physical illness or injuries). Mental Health First Aiders are trained to identify, understand, and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue, by providing support, listening and guidance. There are even organisations that offer qualifying organisations Mental Health First Aid training for free.
Mental health awareness courses are also available for the wider workforce, often delivered by trusted charities. This training can help compliment the mental health awareness focused Driver CPC Periodic Training that your LGV/HGV and PCV/PSV drivers can receive. The module ‘Improving Drivers Understanding of Mental Health’ covers an introduction to the areas we have discussed in this article, and also provides introductions to conditions commonly affecting drivers, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Get a free demo of the Driver CPC Periodic Training materials here.
Support for men’s mental health
Find out more about Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month on the Movember website. You may also find organisations such as Mind or The Mental Health Foundation have helpful advice and resources for you.