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Why language and conversation are crucial to men’s mental health

To mark Men’s Health Week 2022, Sara Brown, Creative Operations Manager and Mental Health First Aider at Rufus, reflects on the importance of men ‘opening up’.

Men's Health Week


At Rufus, we place huge importance on our employees’ wellbeing and feel it’s critical that if someone within our team does need help, they know they have a confidant to reach out to. That’s why we’re proud to count three mental health first aiders across the agency, who provide vital contact and advice for colleagues in need. Sara Brown, Creative Operations Manager, is one of them. To mark Men's Health Week 2022, Here she explains why she trained, how we can talk about mental health better, and the benefits of men opening up.  

Mental health is a vitally important subject - particularly amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic - and one we should all be more openly discussing in order to remove societal taboos and help improve our overall wellbeing. 

As our head of people and culture Emily-Faye Duncan put it recently in The Drum: “Letting people know you’re there to listen speaks volumes. Amplifying mental health issues by starting or joining conversations gives strength to tackle the stigma.” 

Mental health is always at the forefront of my mind as a parent, and also because it’s a huge part of my Operations role at Rufus. Working alongside HR and fellow Mental Health First Aiders, it’s part of my job to look out for the wellbeing of my colleagues on a daily basis, and to be there for someone to talk to in confidence. 

What is a Mental Health First Aider? 

It’s important to distinguish that a Mental Health First Aider is not there to provide medical assessment or diagnose mental health conditions. But what we can do is create a supportive space for people to feel they will be listened to without judgement.We are a point of contact, as part of people’s working network, to provide support and guidance. We’re here to identify the signs and possible environmental causes of mental health problems and signpost colleagues to the right support networks so they can get the help they need.   

Mental Health is responsible for 72 million working days lost annually and costs the UK economy £34.9billion a year. I believe it’s vitally important to make mental health support available for everyone, work to reduce the stigma surrounding it and highlight how important it is to talk to someone. To be able to provide people with a space where they feel they can talk openly.   

Men and mental health 

It’s been found that 40% of men won’t talk about their mental health with anyone, including close friends and family*. A large part of this is believed to be because of societies expectations and traditional gender roles that play out where they feel there is negative stigma around opening up; they don’t want to admit they need support. The stigma associated with mental health is one of the major obstacles to effective support and eventual diagnosis and treatment. 

According to, 125 lives are lost every week to suicide and 75% of all UK suicides are male. The latest statistics from Office of National Statistics also show the male suicide rate hit a two-decade high in England and Wales in 2019 alone – with 4,303 deaths compared with 1,388 women. 

It's important to remember there’s no judgement from a Mental Health First Aider and you choose when and where to talk to someone, therefore making it more comfortable to open up. We are there to offer a confidential, supportive environment.  

CALM is also a fantastic organisation that specifically supports men’s mental health, bringing people together to give them life-saving services. 

How can the language we use affect mental health? 

A lot of the Mental Health First Aider training is about language and how to address people in order to create a non-judgemental environment. For example, describing someone as feeling ‘crazy’ is a big no, and we avoid the expression ‘committed suicide’ as the word committed originates from when suicide was considered a crime or a sin. Instead, use expressions like: “ended his/her life”.  

The way someone talks can also impact how willing someone is to open up – people have different ways of describing their own mental health so it’s important that, where possible, we follow their lead.  

To remove stigma and normalise the subject of discussing mental health with men, our society needs to start with everyday language, and re-define stoicism as a healthier, more open, confident and comfortable characteristic. 

“Man up” for example, is a phrase used by both sexes to shrug off any emotion that might interfere with their actions or intentions. Mocking two men when they share an emotionally close moment can in turn make men afraid to “compromise their masculinity” by being vulnerable. Thus, perpetuating the expectation that men should maintain a “stiff upper lip”, and stop them reaching out for help.    With the increasing number of companies training their employees in Mental Health First Aid, it’s clear we’re moving slowly in the right direction. One conversation at a time. 

If you are struggling with your mental health, or simply would like someone to talk to, we recommend getting in touch with these brilliant services/charities: 


About the author

Creative Operations Manager Sara works closely with our Client Services, Delivery and Resource heads, to ensure Rufus' category-defining projects are correctly and efficiently resourced, and our people are working to their best capacity. Passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health, Sara is one of three Mental Health First Aiders in the agency.

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Sara BrownCreative Operations Manager

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