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Men’s Health Week (June 13 to 19) aims to encourage men to take charge of their health and speak out on those issues that too often keep men silent. One in five men in the UK die before the age of 65, and they die on average three years earlier than women. Men are also less likely to visit the GP or open up to friends and family about problems.

While many men die each year from diseases that could have been treated at an earlier stage, such as prostate cancer, skin cancer, and testicular cancer, the focus of the campaign is mental health. Admitting feelings of low mood, anxiety and loneliness are still seen as taboo for many men even in 2022.

One area where male mental health problems have burgeoned recently is the construction sector. Since the pandemic, those working in the high-risk industry have been under greater pressure than ever before.

Deadlines are ever tightening amid increasing demand, while material shortages and price rises are squeezing many self-employed workers to breaking point. Suicide rates among construction workers are three times higher than the national average, and stress, anxiety and depression account for one-fifth of work-related illnesses.

To try and tackle the brewing crisis in the construction sector, the charity Mates in Mind has been set up. It aims to encourage organisations to change their culture and implement proper mental health policies.

Sarah Meek is the Managing Director, and she recently spoke to Safety & Health Practitioner. When asked how mental distress manifests itself in men, Sarah said: “Because of the stigma around talking about mental health, men are less likely to show any visible behaviour changes.”

She added: “However, they may seem more distant than usual, not able to sleep or take longer than normal to respond to messages. They might not want to engage with people or hobbies they’ve previously enjoyed. They may not seem like their usual self – possibly snapping or shouting – or there might be new, unexplained patterns of lateness or absences.”

So, what can men do to change and help tackle their problems? Sarah explains that there needs to be a top-down culture change, with those at the very top of organisations putting in place the right resources and culture which will enable men to open up.

Talking about intimate health topics is never easy, but if there’s something sensitive and personal you would like to talk about, either with a doctor, a partner, or a close family member, it can really help, and even be a lifesaving decision, to put aside false pride and open up.

Pick the right time, when you are feeling calm and free from distractions. Try and remember that you are not alone, and thousands of men out there are feeling just the same as you. There’s no need to go on at length; simply explain what the problem is, and then move on to let the person know that you want to explore a way of solving it.

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