Why men don't talk about mental health

08/08/16 . Blog

Men are constantly being told to talk about their problems – including by the Men's Health Forum. But new research suggests one reason why we don't do so at work. It's down to money.

The gender pay gap – the amount men earn compared to women – is vast at 19.2%. Not fair, is it? Indeed, you won’t find many people trying to justify this disgraceful state of affairs in the second decade of the twenty-first century. But did you know there are groups who do far, far worse than women do?

New research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows a male mental-health pay gap as wide as the Grand Canyon. Men living with depression or anxiety earn 26% less than men who don’t experience these conditions. For men who experience panic attacks, the gap is an incredible 42%.

But isn’t there a gap for women with these health conditions too? There is but it’s far narrower: women with mental health conditions earn on average 10% less than those without.

Shocking, illegal – but not surprising

]Let’s not forget that this sort of discrimination, just like discrimination against women, is totally against the law. The Equality Act of 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in work.

For the Men’s Health Forum, the EHRC’s findings were shocking but not surprising. Our own research by Opinion Leader for Men’s Health Week found that 34% of men would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time off work for mental health concern such as anxiety or depression (compared to 13% for a physical injury) and that 38% of men were concerned that their employer would think badly of them if they took time off work for a mental health concern (compared to 26% for a physical injury).

Amongst men who had actually experienced mental health problems – and therefore had also experienced the reaction to them – these figures were even higher: 46% would be embarrassed or ashamed to report and 52% would be concerned about taking time off. Small wonder given the massive potential impact on their pay packets.

The Men’s Health Forum’s CEO Martin Tod told The Observer: ‘Our own research shows that men with mental health difficulties are very concerned about how their employers will perceive them - and, sadly, this new research shows that in too many cases they're absolutely right to be.’

The Forum is calling on employers to stop discriminating against men with mental health challenges and on the NHS to enable men to get professional support without being exposed to the stigma that still clearly exists. 

Martin said: ‘Based on these figures, employers need to do much more to tackle stigma and discrimination against mental health problems in the workplace. 

‘But the health system needs to do more too. We can't wait for every employer to change. People must be able to get confidential support for mental health issues outside working hours without their employer knowing.’

Want to see something done about this?

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.

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