November 19th
International Men's Day 

Celebrating Men's Positive Value 

Calls for an International Men's Day began in the 1960s but it didn’t get under way formally until the 1990s and is now celebrated in more than 60 countries according to the organisers. What’s it all about? Well you may ask… There are six aims covering all sorts of concerns and interests affecting men throughout the globe which we’ve summed up here:

  • To promote positive role models. And, no, we’re not just talking film stars, rock gods and sporting legends but down-to-earth men living decent, good lives
  • To recognise men’s input into every sphere they touch: society, family, relationships, childcare and the environment
  • To highlight men’s mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health and wellbeing 
  • To call out discrimination against men, whether in social services, social attitudes and biases or law
  • To encourage better gender relations and promote gender equality 
  • To build a safer world where everyone, everywhere can reach their full potential

Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, the day’s founder, says, “International Men’s Day has the potential to become the global medium to heal our world. The concept and themes of International Men’s Day are designed to give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the broken-hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes and create a more caring humanity.”

We’re all about protecting people at First Central whatever gender they identify with. It’s a commitment we take seriously 24/7 all year round. But, International Men’s Day gives us a chance to focus specifically on issues men might find especially awkward or uncomfortable to be honest about. Did you know…

One in five men will die before they reach retirement age.

50% of premature male deaths are preventable.

Three in four suicides are by men. 

It’s no surprise then that the theme of this year’s event is ‘Zero Male Suicide’ to promote action to support men through crises before desperation leads them to consider ending their own lives. 

This year we’ve got an exciting programme lined up to raise awareness of men’s wellbeing, show support and promote positive, open conversations. We might take it for granted that talking comes easily to everyone; who doesn’t love chatting about themselves, right? So often though men are reluctant to admit they’re struggling, particularly mentally, and they’re slow to share. Feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment can get in the way. That’s why we’ve put together some top tips for our managers so they can create a safe environment where men feel encouraged to be truthful and ask for help. They may appear simple but their impact can be dramatic.

  1. Rather than having conversations in a work environment, going for a walk or grabbing a coffee’s a good idea for promoting openness  
  2. ‌Ask, ask and ask again. Many men will say they’re fine when they're not. Rephrasing questions and using different words can work well
  3. We’ve all heard the saying that ‘prevention’s better than cure.’ It’s vital everyone’s clear about the value of switching off from work and recharging our energy levels before we reach burn out.  

‌We coach our managers to be vigilant and patient. Has a colleague become much quieter? Do they seem distracted? Has the quality of their work slipped? We know making sure they feel safe to share, feel seen and feel heard could make a world of difference. This approach is relevant no matter where colleagues work and their level of seniority. To emphasise our democratic attitude, this year we’re staging a panel discussion where our senior male leaders will openly share their personal journeys and talk about their strategies for ‘Balancing the Demands of Modern Life’. We’re also broadcasting a recent recording of an internal interview with our CEO, Michael Lee, in which he reveals details about his life and runs through what he’s learned during his professional journey.  

‌As well as being more reluctant to visit their GP than women, data clearly shows us that men are also less likely to access support for their mental health, only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies being for men. Everyone likes to deal with things in their own way and we’ve arranged it so our people have loads of different options for accessing information and organising support. Whether it’s our SimplyHealth Cash Plan that provides financial help for eye tests, dental checks, physio and the like or our wide-ranging Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) through which colleagues and their family members can benefit from a phone helpline 24/7, we’ve got our people’s backs. Part of the comprehensive care facilities we’ve introduced are the Mental Health First Aiders we’ve trained throughout the business to spot early signs of mental ill health in fellow workers. They’re able to confidentially signpost people to where they need to be to get the most appropriate relief and are equipped to deal with emergencies. There are now 38 of them ready to lend an ear and a shoulder. We’ve even considered how best to cater for those who prefer to text rather than talk, pointing them in the direction of UK-based SHOUT, an anonymous service which doesn’t appear on your phone bill.

Arguments against the need for an International Men’s Day are repeated every year. When you consider the statistics, however, the facts speak for themselves. Men and boys perform disproportionately poorly in education and health settings. Boys lag behind at school, especially in Maths and English. Some 13.2% of men are not in employment or education (for women it’s 10%.) Life expectancy for a man today is four years lower than for a woman, 83% of rough sleepers are men, and a staggering 96% of the prison population are male. Perhaps a day promoting better outcomes for the men around us isn’t such a crazy idea.

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