Everyone’s health is of huge importance, but men’s health is brought into the spotlight this week as Men’s Health Week starts on Wednesday 10th June.
Toni White is a men’s mental health specialist and mentor who focusses on supporting and educating those within male-dominated work sectors to address the stigma surrounding men’s difficulties and reduce their suicide rate. Toni has developed the website For Our Men which offers a wealth of information and support to men who work within policing.
An introduction to For Our Men
Given that men make up the majority of frontline and operational police it might seem a little unnecessary why we need to specifically talk about their mental health in the organisation but as the frontline is 70% men and 75% of suicides are men, we do.
Less than 50% of men are asked how they are in the workplace and less than 60% of managers feel comfortable discussing mental health despite work being considered the most important factor in a man’s mental health, so we’ve got a problem and we need to start discussing it; quickly.
Whilst there is naturally a lot of attention and discussion around PTSD and trauma within policing, men don’t need to be mentally ill to die by suicide. What often causes them mental distress or leads to their suicide, is actually shame and life trauma such as relationship breakdowns and though we may think it’s a ‘young person problem’, middle-aged men are those most at risk. That mid-life crisis we joke about? That has that has the potential to kill our men.
Most of what I support officers with, from constables to Chief Officers, has nothing to do with the trauma of their job but everything from low self-esteem and body image to how they are being treated by colleagues and management. And despite speaking at several service events and even the Royal Marines, for months I kept hitting the same brick walls of slow processes and bureaucratic red tape preventing getting our men recognised on a national scale.
Realising the only way to continue helping men as quickly and as nationally as they needed us to, I set up ForOurMen.com, a website and community dedicated to specifically discussing men’s mental and emotional health in the workplace. More importantly, it houses a free members-only access for an informal men in police network, requiring just a PNN email to sign up with. Supporting so many officers online, I wanted to create a digital national ‘canteen’ where officers can share their experiences of mental and emotional health for the benefit of others. Where men had a voice and felt heard.
Having only launched in May we already have frontline PCs discussing physical fitness and DS’s on the death of their young son and we have a lot more experiences to share from PCs who had fatal collisions to senior leaders battling eating disorders. Some are anonymous accounts and others share their name but what’s important is that we help men recognise that they’re not alone, things can get better and that someone is always listening!
As we’re independent from the organisation, we don’t disclose who has signed up to our network and it is currently open for Constables to Inspectors across Special, Regulars and Detectives so that we can manage and build our network the way our men need us to. There will also be more written content as well as podcasts and video together with online events for those wishing to understand men’s mental health and help their colleagues.
For Our Men is about giving our men a voice, listening to them and educating others on how best to support them!