Men's health workshop raises awareness

Exploring men’s health, safety and wellbeing with Unite Education

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Men’s Health Week 2024 takes place this week (June 10-16), and Unite London & Eastern region has recently run workshops for members that explore men’s health, safety and wellbeing.

Unite campaigns for healthy, safe workplaces and working lives for all, and these workshops aimed to raise awareness so reps could develop an action plan to organise and tackle the issues collectively.

The Unite Education team in the region had initially put together a one-day course – but this proved so popular with members that it was expanded to an additional three-day course that could cover issues in more depth.

Over the two online courses, 16 members attended the sessions that covered a variety of issues.

Unite regional education officer Margaret Bourne explained why Unite was organising the workshops.

 “The workshops had two options for members: a one-day session that provided an overview of the issues that men experience, and a three-day option that gave an opportunity to look more extensively at the issues.

“There is increasing evidence that health improvement initiatives in the workplace are not only effective at engaging men but are also welcomed and valued by men.”

“On average, men spend far more of their lives, away from home in the workplace and are more likely to work full-time,” Margaret went on to say. “These workshops looked at the statistics and highlight the issues that male colleagues experience including andropause, suicide, heart disease, mental health challenges and dispelling the ‘man up’ culture which can have an impact on performance, health and safety and attendance at work.”

As well as information from the tutor and a chance to share experiences from their own workplaces, the reps heard first-hand accounts.

One rep who shared his story was a bus driver who is currently in recovery from prostate cancer. He talked to the group about his experience and the need for reasonable adjustments so he could have treatment at work. He needed extra sanitation provision, but, as a driver, also required a change to his seat and even found that driving a different route could help.

The group also heard from Stephen Craig, Unite national development officer, about the Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter, and how the region is extending the whole notion of Unite’s Period Dignity campaign to cover sanitation dignity.

Other areas covered included the mental health impact of many of the issues, which is a major issue with male members, adequate provision for colleagues who are transitioning and the way that sickle cell can disproportionately affect black members.

Margaret explained that though the course was on men’s health and wellbeing, women could, and did, attend so they could improve their understanding and support male colleagues at work.

Unite tutor Tom Stannard said, “The course went really well. It was about starting a conversation around the ‘man-up’ culture and mask of masculinity that is prevalent in many workplaces.

“Men still don’t really talk about health issues, and don’t want to be seen as weak,” he added. “But the workshops were designed to allow people to reflect on their own experiences and discuss how to use Unite structures to get workplace policies in place that will support members.

“The feedback following the workshops has been very positive, and we even had time to discuss what reps would like to see in a future session on men’s health.”

By Keith Hatch