We mark this year’s International Men’s Day with a look at the event’s three key themes, and technologies and tools supporting these.
Did you know that 19th November is International Men’s Day (IMD)? The event was started in the UK in 2010 and has been growing and gaining recognition since. It’s now the subject of an annual debate in the House of Commons, providing further opportunity to explore and raise awareness of the issues impacting the lives of men and boys.
The idea of IMD has in the past courted questioning from media columnists and commentators, asking ‘do we really need a men’s day?’ A quick look at the themes of IMD and of the findings highlighted in various reports provide a clear answer to this question: a resounding, ‘yes’.
Take mental health. While public attitudes have shifted – thanks to increased conversation in the media and changes to employment legislation – for many, discussing the issue openly remains laden with stigma, both real and perceived. And many within this ‘many’, are men.
Forty per cent of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health, according to a survey by mental healthcare provider The Priory Group. The main reasons cited for this were being ‘too embarrassed’ to open up, and a ‘negative stigma’ around issues of mental health. This is reflected in NHS data which shows that only 36% of NHS referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men.
The problem is not only one of men’s reluctance to discuss mental health, but the impacts of poor mental health on men vs women. According to a 2022 House of Commons report, suicide in England and Wales is three times more common among men than women, and the gap between genders has increased over time.
Instead of questioning the validity of IMD, we should look at the facts and focus on the issues impacting boys and men – starting with mental health. The event and its themes provide an opportunity to do just that, and for organisations to demonstrate their equality, diversity and inclusion credentials – or else reflect on and adapt these for the benefit of all employees.
The themes for IMD 2023 are:
- Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys
- Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing
- Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity
As a software and technology specialist, we thought we’d explore these themes through a tech lens. We’ve picked a couple of examples of apps and technologies that support each of these themes. Whilst some are targeted at men, others simply promote wellbeing and good health for users who identify with any and every gender category.
Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys
‘Wellbeing’ is a pretty general term, but one which has become a firm fixture of news and entertainment content in recent years. Improving wellbeing has spun careers for many a social media influencer, and resulted in a maze of potential paths to better wellbeing: ice baths, intermittent fasting, waking at 5am, glucose tracking, CBD, digital detoxing, crystals – and a whole lot more.
One wellbeing ‘trend’ that has stuck around, though, is mindfulness. The practice involves learning and observing greater awareness of the present moment, including your environment, your physical feelings, thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness is backed by a number of scientific studies, with benefits including reducing anxiety, preventing depression, improving cognition and increasing body satisfaction.
Getting into mindfulness has never been easier thanks to a number of great apps that have come to the market in recent years. One of the best known of the lot is Headspace, which features evidence-based meditation and mindfulness tools. The app’s huge library of sessions are easy to navigate and aim to promote better sleep, reduce stress and help users learn meditation and mindfulness skills.
If sleep is a particular problem, then Calm might be a better bet. The app boasts over 1.5 million downloads and features mindfulness practices, ambient music and calming, sleep-inducing sounds. Users can check in and log their mood, set notifications and reminders, and track basic stats.
Never one to be left behind, Apple is also in the mindfulness game, with its inventively titled app (‘Mindfulness’) available for Apple Watch users. The focus here is on breath work; the app features an animation to support breathing sessions and allows users to track progress (‘mindful minutes’) on their iPhone.
Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing
The online space is critical for many charities for both raising awareness and raising funds. More than half of UK charities surveyed for a 2021 report now have a digital strategy; 73% deliver services on platforms such as Zoom, Facebook or Slack; and 82% consider digital to be a greater priority since covid-19.
At Appdrawn, we’ve got first-hand experience in this area. We worked with The Kindness of Strangers to create a platform for charities to more easily raise funds and awareness. This integrates tools for marketing, grant applications, data management and more, and is available to organisations as a budget-friendly and bespoke software offering.
On the consumer side, there’s now a wide range of apps out there that connect charities with the public and enable support and donations. These include Toucan, which allows users to connect with thousands of charities and make and track multiple donations. It promises to safeguard user data, meaning you don’t have to sign up with multiple organisations individually.
Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity
Talking to friends and family about mental health can be difficult, but listening to others discussing these issues can be a helpful way to feel less alone and find ways of articulating your own experiences. As with everything in life – there’s a podcast to help! Or in this case, multiple podcasts and streaming apps. Go back through the BBC Sounds archive, for instance, and you’ll find The Male Room, a limited series featuring ‘conversations men don’t often have on air.’ A more recent addition to the Beeb’s male-focussed pods is Rylan: How to Be a Man, featuring guests (from boxer Amir Khan to supermodel David Gandy) discussing how to be a man in the 2020s.
Other notable listens include Manup! a UK pod which is now in its third season, and Man Talk, launched in support of CALM, a charity raising awareness of and leading a movement against suicide, which, it says, is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
Nowadays, there’s less stigma associated with discussing mental health and wellbeing. Despite this, it does seem that men more than women remain reluctant to speak candidly on the matter and seek help. International Men’s Day can be seen as a means of promoting communication around issues that affect wellbeing, and it’s a day worth marking by both individuals and organisations. Looking for inspiration? The IMD site has a number of resources as well as a list of charities doing stellar work in this area. It also has a handy employer’s guide, helping brands to explore the event’s themes with their team.