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7 ways employers can support men’s unique mental health needs

By Rob Jarvis, LCSW | May 30, 2024

June is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Employers can have an influence on the often-neglected issue of men’s mental health.
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When people think of June, springtime fun is usually one of the first things to come to mind: barbeques, graduations, gardening and baseball. But June is also Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. With many men coping with mental wellbeing, it’s a good time for employers to consider their role in supporting men’s mental health.

Much has been written about the mental health crisis in the U.S. and how it’s affected children, adolescents, young adults and working moms. Yet men often struggle and experience the same conditions and states of mind that women and other individuals face, sometimes at startling rates.

For example, one in 10 men experience depression or anxiety but less than half will receive treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Although women attempt suicide more often than men do, males account for nearly 80% of suicide deaths in the United States.

Why are men reluctant to seek help?

Many researchers and mental health professionals attribute men’s reluctance to seek help for conditions such as anxiety and depression to cultural conditioning, perceived gender roles, socialized ideals of masculinity or the ideal male role model. Regardless of cause, the alarming fact is too many men aren't receiving the help they need.

For example, certain conditions such as depression are diagnosed about two times more in women than men, leaving 6 million men experiencing symptoms of depression, with the vast majority going under-diagnosed.

Men show different signs of mental illness

Although men and women can exhibit similar signs of mental health issues, research has shown that some disorders can manifest differently in men than they do in women. According to the American Psychological Association, women tend to internalize emotions, while men are more likely to externalize them. Men tend toward self-destructive behavior such as:

  • Escapist behavior, such as spending an excessive amount of time at work, overindulging on TV sports or shows, excessive video gaming and over-distractibility that hinders work performance and their ability to meet responsibilities
  • Engaging in risky behavior such as misusing alcohol and drugs, reckless driving and hypersexuality
  • Taking sick days to excess
  • Withdrawing from social activities such as after-hours work get-togethers, avoiding lunches with coworkers, or limiting social contact with family and friends
  • Externalizing behaviors such as poor impulse control, aggressiveness, inappropriate anger and low frustration tolerance
  • Focusing on death, suicide or attempting suicide

They also are more likely to show physical symptoms associated with inflammation, including digestive disorders, chronic pain and headaches without clear cause.

How organizations can better support men’s mental health

Organizations should engage in comprehensive mental health planning for the workforce. As they do with other important employee populations, employer plans should include strategies to meet the unique needs of male employees. These can include:

  1. Developing awareness training for managers on how to engage men in mental wellbeing discussions. Managers should understand the socialized ideals of masculinity and how they affect men and can mask their attempts to ask for help. Supporting and training managers throughout the year can help decrease mental health stigma and create psychologically safe workplaces.
  1. Using humor in awareness campaigns that target men. Men respond more positively to humor and softer mental health language in campaigns aimed at them. Using language geared to men will engage them and make them feel more comfortable.
  1. Adding male-specific content to your managers’ mental health toolkits, including:
    • General mental health information, signs, symptoms and how to seek help
    • Best practices for engaging in healthy discussions about mental health, such as using inclusive communications and language that’s positive and softened (i.e., using “recovering from burnout” instead of depression or sadness)
    • Fact sheets
    • Where to go for help decision map
    • Internal and community resources
  1. Providing personalized and culturally appropriate care with your employee assistance program (and mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) network). Mental health providers, especially master-trained clinicians, still tend to be predominately white and female. Having an adequate number of male mental health providers from diverse cultural backgrounds can help men feel more comfortable seeking out and receiving mental health care.
  1. Confirming with your medical vendor that your mental health or SUD networks have an adequate number of providers and facilities that can handle the complexity of SUD and suicidality so men can receive the right care in a timely and expedient fashion.
  1. Providing a range of self-guided digital resources that men can review discreetly and at their own pace. These can include digital cognitive behavioral therapy, webinars, podcasts and articles. Many men may not be ready to discuss their mental health issues with providers. Self-guided resources can bridge the gap until they seek professional help.
  1. Developing a men’s employee resource group that can provide support and help in personal or career development, and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table.

Last, it’s important to identify prevention points outside of the mental health system, as males who die by suicide are less likely to have known mental health conditions. Acute stressors such as relationship breakdowns, other interpersonal problems, financial difficulties, legal difficulties and job insecurity often precipitate suicides of males and they more often involve firearms. Organizations should try to alleviate acute situational stressors in the work environment that can contribute to emotionally reactive or impulsive behaviors. Creating a safe and stress-free environment, providing training on stress management, keeping employees up to date on changes, expectations and their performance, and providing access to support through peers, training and time-off can help.

Supporting men’s psychological wellbeing is as complex as it is necessary. But employers can play a role in improving not only the plight of men but also the psychological wellbeing of their entire workforce.


Associate Director, Health, Equity & Wellbeing

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