Mental illness is just as serious and real as any physical illness. The only difference: It is not as obvious.
In recent years, mental well-being has evolved into a field of considerable prominence. Recognition of how mental issues, including stress, can impact physical health has led to a push for a more conscientious management, emphasising awareness, sensitivity and support.
As Mental Health Awareness Week underlines, one of the most commonplace of these issues is the occurrence of prolonged stress. Unchecked, this has the potential to develop into a catastrophe on several levels; generally lowering morale, damaging standard of living, triggering health complaints and reducing productivity. As such it’s in everyone’s interests to ensure stress prevention. Support should be taken as seriously as any other safety or health complaint.
Who complains more about work?
A recent research conducted by the Organisational psychology and health department at Manchester Business School revealed that men are more likely than women to experience mental ill-health because of work.
The research, which surveyed 15,000 employees from 30 organisations, of which 1,763 are currently experiencing poor mental health. Also it revealed that, while two in five women (38 percent) felt their company’s culture made it possible to speak openly about their mental health problems, only around one in three men (31 percent) agreed. Meanwhile, 43 percent of women had taken time off work for poor mental health, compared to 29 percent men.
Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School and president of the CIPD, told People Management that, while women tend to juggle home and work, men “still get their main identity from their job”. “The interface between home and work for women can be equally stressful, but for men, it is still overwhelmingly their job to work,” said Cooper. "Until we have more ‘new men’ who take on more of their family responsibilities as well as work, this is unlikely to change.”
Who’s more susceptible to stress?
People Management reports, women are putting up with high levels of stress and unhappiness in the workplace. New research reveals that 70 percent ranked their stress levels at five or higher out of 10.
The findings from global management consultancy Lee Hecht Harrison Penna also showed that almost half (52 percent) of women worked at least one additional hour per day, while a similar proportion (51 percent) would not seek the same kind of career if they lost their job tomorrow.
“This research indicates that women are tolerating higher levels of stress and unhappiness at work than they should be,” said Mel Barclay, head of the career transition at Lee Hecht Harrison Penna.
Though tolerating more stress might have elongated effects on women, many reports suggest the opposite as women even though tolerate stress, they share their problems and move on while men do not.
Women are not alone in facing difficulties achieving work-life balance. A global study of 250,000 participants by the University of Georgia, published in July, found that men were struggling to juggle work and family life just as much as women. However, they feel less confident to talk about the issue because of negative career repercussions or threats to their masculinity.
Did you know? Multi-tasking mothers have known it for years – women are better at coping with stress than men.
Now scientists believe they can tell them why.
It’s all down to the protective effect of oestrogen, which appears to ‘block’ the negative effects of stress on the brain.
Why are men more susceptible to stress?
Various research mentions how men are vulnerable to the effects of stress. They may perceive depression as a weakness while women come open about the problem and talk about it. Men define talking about emotion, and seeking help for an emotional problem, such as depression, as a weakness. This is especially the case in developing countries where traditional gender roles are more strongly endorsed.
These beliefs strongly shape behaviours of men who are in need of mental health care and make men vulnerable when stress and the emotional problem happens. All these results in men ignoring depression when it develops and avoiding care when needed, not to look weak. This also partially explains why more men with depression kill themselves than women with depression.
Gender influences our risk of depression through various ways. It determines our risk of exposure to adversity. It changes our vulnerability to stress. And it can also determine what resources we’ll be able to access to cope with stress or depression.
Whatever the causes of stress and your situation, never bury the problem. If your suffering prolonged, intense stress it’s unlikely to diminish on its own and will likely do more damage unchecked.
Being aware of the problem and addressing the factors is the only way to alleviate the issue.
Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed in this column are author’s own.