News, Blog, Employment, Awards, Careers | Friday 18th November 2022
November is an important month where the physical and mental wellbeing of men are concerned, with two major events occurring that raise awareness of what many must go through. Movember is an international annual event that involves men growing moustaches to draw attention to prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicidal ideation, three prevalent threats to male health. International Men’s Day, Saturday 19th November, is recognised across the globe as an opportunity to raise awareness of the unique problems many men experience. The day provides a platform where men and women from all backgrounds can collaborate to offer solutions to the many challenges some men must take on, including the stigmatisation of mental health discussions, the toxic nature of lad culture and the high rates of reported loneliness.
Zitko Group is a market leader in the fire and security sector, an incredibly demanding industry comprised of mostly men. As a result, Zitko is unwilling to let International Men’s Day and Movember go by without raising awareness of the important causes they support, while also offering guidance on how to help improve the mental wellbeing of the men in our lives.
Common challenges and their solutions
1. The stigmatisation of health discussions
How many men do you know who will brush off any health problems because of a reluctance to seek medical attention? How many dismiss their symptoms as “just a cough”, “just a bit of discomfort” or “just feeling a bit low”? The downplaying of health concerns is a common and incredibly damaging trope among men that must be stopped. The simplest, most effective solution to this problem is to reassure men that it is ok to not be firing from all cylinders at all times. Whether they are in pain, feeling unwell or struggling with their mental health, men deserve to feel safe when discussing their problems and reassured that they will be taken seriously. There is an unrealistic expectation that men must be strong, healthy and unaffected by any adversity. This unrelenting act of stoicism is exhausting and debilitating but the good news is it can be solved. Simply don’t judge your pals when they show any kind of illness, don’t belittle them or mock your son or your brother when he seems sensitive. Instead, encourage each other to seek help in whatever form it might be, whether it is getting checked, going for a physical or using a helpline.
The rates of loneliness among men are far higher than in women, with almost 20% of men reportedly not having a close friend. The damaging effects of loneliness are cyclical and therefore incredibly challenging to beat. Individuals feel isolated, their mental health deteriorates, they think they have no one to confide in, they become more upset and insular, they are less likely to seek help or friendship. How can we prevent men from feeling such loneliness? Perhaps the most effective way to encourage men to form friendships is to be more accepting of our differences as a society. Many men do not fit into the typical “lad” stereotype that we have come to recognise and, when a man’s hobbies deviate too far from what is expected, they might be shamed or ostracised. Things like football, rugby, drinking and playing games are common interests among men, however we should become more aware that some enjoy activities beyond this limited group. Even if you don’t share a certain skill or hobby, don’t mock an individual for the things they enjoy. You don’t have to join in but you should encourage them to feel comfortable discussing their hobbies, regardless of whether it appeals to you. Are they a dancer? Are they a songwriter? Are they a costume designer or part of a film society? We all have things we do to unwind and no one way is better, more acceptable or less worthy of judgement. Keep in mind that no one likes the person who mocks people for doing what they love. No one. The minute we let go of our preconceived notions of what is acceptable for a “lad”, men can become more confident in sharing their hobbies and expanding their groups. Join that society, learn about that hobby, ask your colleague when his next competition is and congratulate him on his achievements. He will thank you for letting him share things about his life and you could both come out of that conversation feeling less alone. You can gain a lot from being open minded, namely a friendship for life.
3. Harmful expectations of masculinity
Studies have shown that the two main causes of male suicide are ineffective emotional literacy and unrealistic characterisations of masculinity. This essentially means that many men find it challenging to properly process, understand and communicate their emotions, causing them to bottle things up, act out aggressively and experience shame around their thoughts. In addition, there are numerous men who experience critical and harmful views on themselves because they don’t think they are “man” enough. There is no correct way to be a man. There is no singular definition of masculinity. How often you cry, how much money you make, how athletic you are, how good at DIY you are, how many sexual partners you’ve had, your physique, your diet, your hobbies, asking for help. None of these things determine masculinity. There isn’t a qualification you have to earn that makes you a real man. Why do we think so many men express their emotions through aggression and anger? Because that is the only way we as a society have told them is acceptable. It is our responsibility to afford men the same emotional freedom that we give to women. If a man has a hobby or a way of expressing himself that you deem unusual or not particularly masculine, that’s fine. That’s your opinion. It doesn’t mean you’re correct, though and it certainly doesn’t give you the right to shame him. What certificate do you have that states you can be the judge of what makes a man a real man? Stop telling men to man up, stop using terms such as pansy and snowflake, stop mocking them for experiencing normal, human emotions, stop expecting constant strength and resolve from them. This idea that men don’t cry is harmful and, at times, fatal. If a man tries to share with you their struggles, it is so important that you listen, you take them seriously, you do not mock them and you give them the same understanding and sympathy that you would a woman or child. If men know they can talk about their emotions, then they can better understand them and their shame goes away, improving their emotional literacy. If men can be reassured that we accept them precisely as they are, in any form, then they won’t have to battle the constant feeling of being inadequate in their masculinity. If we can do those two simple things, we can and will save lives.
Things are really challenging for us all at the moment, with financial stressors being higher than many have had to experience in their lifetime and the seemingly endless cycle of doom being reported on the TV. We could all do with some sympathy and understanding, regardless of gender. Simply be kind to yourself and the men in your lives and while you’re at it, please get checked.
Click the link below for more information and resources on the importance of looking after your mental health: