Wellbeing

Four business leaders share their insights on improving men’s mental health and challenging stigmas

- October 17, 2023 5 MIN READ

 

It’s mental health awareness month and in today’s world, the pressures of living coupled with soaring costs and relentless inflation have surpassed even the stresses of the pandemic on Australia’s psyche.

However, beneath this societal strain lies a more sombre reality, the escalating crisis of men’s mental health. As suicide rates increase, with men three times more likely to take their own lives according to research, driven by mounting economic and occupational pressures, the urgency to address this public health issue is growing.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, we asked four business leaders their views on how we can improve men’s mental health and challenge the stigmas which exist within workplaces and society as a whole.

Chris Dahl

Chris Dahl, Co-CEO, Pin Payments


Men in the financial services sector have faced a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues for some time now, with 82% of men in the financial services reporting feeling stressed at work in the past month alone, according to the Financial Services Council. Largely this is due to high-pressure environments, longer hours and a lack of work-life balance. However, creating a supportive and inclusive workplace culture which values balance and flexible working arrangements can help to ease the pressures associated with work. Within our own business, we’ve always prioritised the mental wellbeing of our staff and this was particularly evident throughout COVID-19 in Melbourne, where our staff worked under stringent conditions from home. We were very aware of the mental health implications of lockdown and created wellness initiatives, like care packages and virtual catchups, to keep morale high. We’ve now moved into a hybrid way of working, as we once again recognised that working entirely remotely wasn’t healthy or productive for our team, who needed more face-to-face interactions to increase creativity and overall workplace satisfaction. These minor changes make a big difference to the overall mental health of your employees and as a business leader, we have a responsibility to ensure we’re doing our part to keep people happy and healthy. As a CEO and business leader, I hope to encourage open and honest conversations surrounding mental health in and outside of work, so we can start to break the stigmas attached to mental health and gender.

Dr Richard Wise

Dr Richard Wise, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director at Wise Psychology

Many men grapple with acknowledging the validity of their emotional world, often internalising their psychological distress and the reluctance to reach out only deepens this solitude. However, this isn’t just about gender, it’s about societal norms which have been ingrained from youth, perpetuated by prevailing ideas of masculinity. Too often, young boys are taught to adopt a detached and dismissive attitude, making these harmful stances the societal status quo. This stoicism, while seen as strength, often invalidates and isolates their suffering, paving the way for profound mental health challenges, borne from isolation and the suppression of natural vulnerabilities.

Workplace cultures with toxic dynamics and power imbalances can leave people feeling marginalised and isolated, so it’s natural in these circumstances for stress to escalate creating mental health issues. It’s also no surprise that burnout often emerges in settings where individuals feel ill-equipped for their roles and uncertain of their responsibilities. True psychological safety exists in a culture where individuals are empowered to voice their feelings with honesty and vulnerability. Unfortunately, historically those who identify as male have been discouraged from doing so, due to an ingrained belief that it isn’t safe. To change these ingrained ideas we need to talk with openness and vulnerability, and the more men that can do that, the less stigma there will be.


Thomas Fu

Thomas Fu, Founder and Executive Director, Motor Culture Australia

As someone who started a business in my early twenties, I’m no stranger to the mental health challenges that surround the startup industry and business. With failure and success often existing side-by-side in the early days, stress levels as a founder are often high. Startup founders are twice as prone to depression, with 72 percent stating in the Startup Snapshot’s April 2023 report that their professional journey negatively impacted their mental well-being, causing stress, burnout, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lot of romanticism portrayed around running a startup, fuelled by Hollywood and popular culture. Likewise, due to the ‘grind’ and ‘hustle’ mentality that exists in startups, stoicism and silent suffering is often seen as a badge of honour. It’s these stigmas that we need to change, particularly for those that identify as male. It’s vital that we foster a workplace environment where men can openly discuss their feelings, thereby reshaping perceptions of masculinity and mental health. TradeMutt, a socially-conscious workwear brand, is leading the charge on this by combining interesting workwear with mental health advocacy, empowering men to engage in life-changing conversations. On World Mental Health Day, we’re reminded of the transformative power of discussions. By emphasising both mental and physical well-being and advocating through open dialogue, we can improve men’s holistic health worldwide.

Julian Vivoli

Julian Vivoli, Founder and Director, Vivoli Consulting Engineers

In male-dominated industries like construction and engineering where I’ve spent my career, mental health discussions are often sidelined or dismissed altogether. Pervasive stigmas, coupled with a fear of appearing incapable or weak, prevents an open dialogue from ever occurring. Part of the problem is the perception that vulnerability is a weakness, when in fact it represents an inner strength.

When I started my career I was exposed to some very unhealthy, toxic workplace cultures, which negatively impacted my mental health as a young professional. Over a decade on, within my own business those experiences taught me what not to do. I’ve actively worked to create a positive culture where the needs of my employees are heard before they escalate. Encouraging an openness surrounding seeking help, mental health days off work and creating genuine team connections have helped to do that. While events like World Mental Health Day put a spotlight on these issues, it’s on us to translate awareness into action, so we can champion better mental health. Ultimately, a conversation or any support you can provide could be the lifeline someone needs.


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