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International Men’s Day: ‘Significant number of men still unable to directly ask for help’ – Labour Relations Agency

The Labour Relations Agency said the north still lags behind when it comes to the issue of men talking.
The Labour Relations Agency said the north still lags behind when it comes to the issue of men talking. The Labour Relations Agency said the north still lags behind when it comes to the issue of men talking.

MANY men are turning to their wives, partners or mothers to contact the north’s Labour Relations Agency over mental health concerns, the workplace conciliation body has said.

Speaking ahead of International Men’s Day on Sunday, the LRA's director of employment relations services, Mark McAllister, said men’s mental health still remains a taboo subject in workplaces in 2023.

The problems associated with poor mental health and the knock-on impact on the workplace have been put in the spotlight by the LRA ahead of this this year’s men’s day.

“Despite the talk and awareness-raising, men’s mental health, strangely, remains a taboo subject in the workplace,” said Mr McAllister.

“Meanwhile there is an opening up to other topics such as the impact of domestic violence or the menopause in the context of a working environment.

“And with many sufferers still unable to vocalise or seek the help they desperately need at work, we have found men are asking their wives, partners, and even their mothers to contact our organisation on their behalf.”

The LRA’s specialist workplace information service, which offers free and impartial advice and support to both employers and employees, handles around 12,000 calls every year.

Around 6,500 of those calls come from employees, with more than half the callers, female.

“A significant number of calls we receive are from the wives, partners and mothers of men who can’t bring themselves to ask for help on employment-related issues,” said the LRA director.

“In our informed society many would think such practices would be a thing of the past.

“But it’s not the case and reflects medical evidence that men often refuse to come forward with health complaints and when they do it is only because they’ve been forced to do so by wives or mothers.

“So for all our progress in some areas we still lag behind when it comes to the issue of men talking.”

In an effort to encourage sensitive approaches to topics such as mental health, the LRA recently launched its ‘encouraging respectful conversations at work’ guide and podcast, which aim to help organisations adopt a positive, safe and open culture.

They also encourage employees – particularly men - to be upfront about seeking support from their employers.

“The well-known ‘It’s good to talk’ phrase from the 80s has withstood the test of time,” added Mr McAllister.

“But it can be difficult to shrug off old macho tropes about the strong silent type, especially in all-male work environments.

“However we live in more enlightened times. Progressive employers who embrace respect and provide a safe space to have sensitive discussions about mental health will reap the benefits for the entire organisation.

“With masculinity being such a complex matter, more than ever its entirely foreseeable that some men will not know how to broach a sensitive subject, how to act or what to say.

International Men’s Day is a great chance to start the conversation in work because it really is ‘good to talk’.”

The guide and podcast can be accessed via the LRA website.