UK’s Health Policies for Men are in Need of a Redesign
Men are commonly more reluctant than women to seek medical help. It is not uncommon for men to wait until they can no longer live with the pain or other symptoms of a problem before consulting with a physician. In many instances, earlier treatment would have been advisable. Along with physical injuries or illness, men also avoid seeking help for emotional or mental health issues. In lieu of the problem, health care providers are adopting ways to make getting help more acceptable to men.
Detrimental Working Conditions
Men historically have worked in occupations that pose a significant risk of physical harm. In the U.K., these jobs often pay less despite the risk to life and limb. Men are also more likely to have occupations that take them away from home for extended lengths of time. Constantly traveling for business heightens the risk of potentially becoming involved in an accident. There is also the emotional and mental stress that men suffer by being separated from loved ones.
If men realize they might be depressed, they are more likely to self-medicate by abusing alcohol or engaging in some other unhealthy activity to mask the underlying problem. Men often also refuse professional help as they are more concerned with what friends, family or co-workers might think of them. There remains a stigma attached to getting professional help for emotional or mental health problems.
Fixing the Issue
For decades, advertisements and public health broadcasts have put women’s issues in the spotlight to increase awareness. The same cannot be said for the health problems that men face. The Work Foundation’s Dr. James Chandler believes that the inequalities between men and women mental health policies make the UK’s need for health policies to be redesigned a must.
In order to improve mental health outcomes for men, the Work Foundation recommends that the government does the following four things:
- Re-think Policy Design
Policies should target groups that are at high risk for bad mental health, risky behaviours, and suicide. This includes men that are unemployed, men between the ages of 45-59, men who work in high-risk sectors like construction, and men who are in the criminal justice system.
- Develop Awareness, Understanding, and Engagement
Since men are more reluctant to willingly engage with health services, policy needs to take a more proactive stance. This means having health campaigns in male-dominated settings such as male-dominated workplaces, public houses, or sports grounds. Additionally, the government should work hand in hand with employer groups, the criminal justice system, and the emergency care services to promote screening and preventative health measures
- Improve Access and Support
Often mental health services available to men are not feasible to those with a full-time schedule. Self-help groups and late hour walk-in clinics should be more apparent.
- Build the Evidence-base.
The Worker Foundation recommends that the government conducts new research on the causes of poor mental health and suicide in men. Suicide rates for men in the UK are higher when compared to women, but the reason why is still unknown. More research on the topic will help create a strategy that is both beneficial and effective.