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The facts about men’s mental health: No.3 Men at Work

Here are 12 common risk factors that can impact our mental health: social isolation, money issues, housing issues, bereavement, work issues, health issues, drugs and alcohol, relationship issues, abuse, trauma, inequality and stress.

Having one of these factors doesn’t mean you will definitely end up with a mental health issue. If you’re experiencing work issues and relationship issues and you’re drinking too much, your risk of having a mental health issue is higher, but it doesn’t mean you will definitely have a mental health issue.

Probably all of us have at least one risk factor. The more of these risk factors we have, the higher our risk of developing a mental health issue.

A slide from the Know Your Man Facts Men's Mental Health presentation. Find out more about giving a talk. 

Work-Life balance

The term work-life balance has evolved to remind people not to sacrifice their lives solely to work, especially as more men (and women) are now working from home as a consequence of the coronavirus.

For many, this has blurred the lines between separating professional and personal matters, or from being able to switch off.

Noted a group of researchers writing for The Conversation in February this year, “Before the pandemic, a common objection to remote working was the suspicion that staff would disengage and productivity levels would drop.

“But recent evidence suggests the opposite is true – working from home effectively means working more.

“Feeling fortunate to still be in work, the collapse of work-life boundaries, and the fear of being under surveillance from employers, have all led to people working harder for longer.”

All … or nothing

Having no work, prolonged unemployment, or having to accept work that offers little satisfaction, can exacerbate a slide into poor mental well-being.

Unemployment carries stigma. The pressure to be successful, ‘provide for the family’ and have a brilliant career poses a particular burden on men.

According to a report from the IZA World of Labor in 2018, the number of working men outside the labor force is on the rise, leading to higher levels of stress, depression and anger. Male unemployment is also linked to a range of physical health issues such as suicide and substance abuse.

Read: Men without work: A global well-being and ill-being comparison (IZA World of Labor)  

Having a good work life can reduce our risk of having mental health issues. For example, we know that men of working age who are not in the workforce are 4 times more likely to be depressed than men who have a job.

Many emerging men’s groups, such as the Tough Guy Book Club stipulate that, as part of their social get togethers, participants do not define themselves by what they do.

“We don’t talk about work at our club because you are more than just your job, guys constantly ask each other “what do you do” as an introduction, and it’s a pretty shit introduction because it really it doesn’t tell us much about a person, it just limits the conversation to surface level shit. We want to do better than that.” Tough Guy Book Club No.1 rule.

Other men’s groups like the The Men’s Table are encouraged to talk openly about issues that are impacting them in the safety of a trusted group, which can be a powerful way to diffuse the impact of stress and challenging life circumstances.

“Belonging to a Men's Table contributes to mental, emotional and social wellbeing whilst being a powerful support to individual members travelling their life journeys,” state the organisers.

Know Your Man Facts

Fact #3 in the International Men’s Day Know Your Man Facts campaign on Men’s Mental Health highlights the importance of finding work that has purpose, including voluntary activities and involvement in community.

One of the key strengths of the Men’s Shed movement, which began in Australia in 1993, is to create a space for men to find social connection while ‘fixing things’ and deploying their expertise beyond retirement.

They meet other men while working on projects and conversations evolve, ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ rather than face-to-face.

Research conducted by Beyond Blue has shown that ‘Shedders’ feel better mentally, emotionally and physically. They also report that they feel more useful and better about themselves.

Also in this series:

Read: The facts about men's mental health: No.1 - 75% of suicides are male (Australian Men's Health Forum)

Read: The facts about men’s mental health: No.2: Out of Order

If you would like to learn more about this topic and give a Know Your Man Facts presentation on men’s mental health, please email your request to [email protected]

You can access all other resources to share across your networks here.

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