Loneliness Awareness Week and Men’s Health Week

This June sees the confluence of two awareness weeks that seem unrelated at first glance but are actually closely intwined.  Both Loneliness Awareness Week and Men’s Health Week run from 10th – 16th June and both deserve our attention, personally and professionally.

One of the enduring legacies of the pandemic is an enduring sense of loneliness and disconnection across large swathes of society.  The pandemic triggered a mass movement to home-based working and, for many employees, an isolated existence.  Hybrid working has cemented this lifestyle for many and has made it difficult to rebuild social and professional bonds. This is having a worrying impact on employee mental health.

People who experience extended feelings of loneliness, personal or professional, often suffer increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression as well as being more prone to suicide. Loneliness detrimentally effects cardiovascular health, undermines healthy sleep and increases chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.  On an organisational level too, isolation has seen a downturn in productivity and an increase in worker burnout.

This is obviously concerning for all, but especially for men who are often resistant to asking for help, leaving both physical and mental health issues to fester.  This is worrying enough without the added health pressures brought on through feelings of loneliness.

As Lou Campbell, Wellbeing Partners Programme Director and Counselling Psychotherapist, notes

“Male health, both mental and physical, is still a subject that is avoided by many.  Illnesses that could be stopped in their tracks and dealt with whilst still manageable are more likely to become serious, as men choose to ignore or “tough out” their symptoms. The increased issue of emotional isolation is only adding to the reticence to talk as find it difficult to admit to feeling vulnerable.”

And this is something that we can no longer just ignore.  Men commonly die earlier, become ill at a younger age and experience more chronic illnesses than women[i].  Health issues develop into life threatening cases when they could have been managed earlier, as demonstrated in the statistic that in the UK men are more likely than women to experience and die from heart disease and illness,[ii] in part because they ignore symptoms.

The attitudes of ignoring or “toughing out” also impacts male mental health. 40% of men have never spoken to someone about their mental health challenges[iii] and ¾ of suicides in the UK are male[iv].  These problems are only being exacerbated by the experience of loneliness and rather than talk about this or seek professional help, many men rely on unhelpful coping mechanisms like alcohol and recreational drug usage, further damaging their health.

This June is the perfect opportunity to support workplace mental health as we continue to navigate issues of loneliness and disconnection, but to especially offer our male members of staff an environment where these issues can be discussed in a non-judgemental and supportive way.  It is time to stop seeing loneliness as a passing phase and to treat it with the respect it deserves.  As individuals and organisations, we will all benefit.

Suggested workplace initiatives to increase awareness and provide tips and advice for your employees:

Men’s Health: a 60-minute live and interactive workshop to increase awareness of the types of health and wellbeing issues that commonly affect men, and how to tackle them effectively.

Men’s Mental Health: a 60-minute workshop that normalises discussion of male mental health, the challenges men can face and practical and supportive solutions for responding to these difficulties.

Improving Connection and Belonging – In this 60-minute session themes of loneliness and disconnection are explained in the context of their impact on physical and mental health, offering a wide range of practical ways to improve connection.

Taming the Inner Critic: This 60-minute interactive workshop focuses on helping develop resilience in the face of life’s challenges, showing how this essential quality can be cultivated through supportive techniques.

Mindfulness for Men: In this session, mindfulness is explored through the lens of the physical and mental health challenges men experience, offering an accessible way into practicing mindfulness to help manage these issues.

Employee Counselling: in your workplace or online, specialist mental health professionals provide confidential one to one support for your employees around any mental health or wellbeing topics they want to discuss with a highly experienced workplace counsellor.

Getting Started

[i] bmj.com

[ii] bhf.org.uk

[iii] priorygroup.com

[iv] ons.gov.uk

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