Men & mental health: Expert diagnosis and actions plans from a distance

By Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development and Marketing, Generali UK Employee Benefits

Due to the constraints of the pandemic, the use of technology to provide mental health support is key. And never more so that for your male employees, for whom confidential, immediate access, support services could literally provide a lifeline, according to the Samaritans. Evidence shows that men are less likely to seek support for their mental health from friends or loved ones. So, how can you ensure your male employees get the right support, in the right place, at the right time on a largely disparate and remote basis? It’s well worth looking maximizing the added value support services provided included with your group income protection policy.

Complex problems require expert support

For example, Best Doctors’ Mental Health Navigator (MHN) service from Teladoc Health reveals that more men (59%) than women (41%) used its services last year. Leveraging a cross-functional team of leading psychologists, psychiatrists and clinicians, the service is designed to identify the correct diagnosis and provide an action plan for those struggling with a wide range of mental health conditions, from anxiety, stress or depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to many other mental health problems. It also provides condition and treatment reviews for anyone who wants a better understanding of an existing condition or prescribed program.

Absence & productivity improvements

Data from Teladoc Health finds that 50% of participants were off work when approaching MHN. Around 45% returned to full time or part time work after MHN. The service is helping reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms by 60%1 and has seen an average 54%2 improvement in work productivity.

This data is based on the Australian market, where the service (along with Canada) was first rolled out, before being introduced into the UK last year by Generali. It’s now included at no extra cost to the range of early intervention and rehabilitation services available via our group income protection policy.

The Australian and UK healthcare systems have similarities and differences. Both are publicly funded through taxation. But while GP visits are 100% funded in the UK – prescription charges aside – the cost of primary care services are only 75% funded in Australia.

That aside, men, their mental health and behaviors are arguably not hugely different from one side of the world to the other…

Global mental health problems accentuated

The Lancet Psychiatry reports that Covid-19 hasn’t changed everything with regards to mental health, but it has accentuated existing trends. Where men are concerned, those trends include the fact that around 1 in 8 have a common mental health problem. At the same time, men may be reluctant to seek support for their mental health or disclose mental health problems to loved ones, according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

MHF reports that this is largely due to societal expectations about how men “should” behave and what masculinity is in terms of traits like strength and control. While not inherently negative things, “some research suggests that a reliance on these traditional ideals as what it means to be “a man” may negatively impact men’s mental health”.

Maximize existing support services

Fortunately, there are online and digital services available via group income protection – MHN representing just one. Others of course include employee assistance programs, health apps, online support forums, well-being webinars and mindfulness tools: all of which can be accessed remotely and in confidence.

At a time when companies are looking, more than ever, at adding value while cutting costs, this represents an ideal place to start.

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 1 Based on DASS 21 scores

2 Based on World Health Organisation Health and Work Performance Questionnaire.