International Men’s Day is celebrated on 19th November annually, marking a day to appreciate and celebrate the men in our lives. The day was first observed in the early 1990s by Thomas Oaster to celebrate the contributions made by men in various aspects of life. Although celebrations of the day started off small and it took a while before people started to take notice, the day is now celebrated in over 80 countries.
This year, the UK themes are as follows:
- Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys
- Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity
- Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing
These themes are designed to help organisations and people consider what challenges they need to address as well as various actions they can take. Before we go into celebration ideas, it’s important to consider just a handful of the particular issues faced by men in and beyond the workplace.
Men’s Silent Health Crisis
The men’s health crisis is considered silent because they’re a lot more likely to stay quiet when they’re struggling. Mental health is a taboo subject in men largely because of the toxic masculinity culture which promotes suppressing emotions and trying to appear ‘tough’. The rate of male suicide continues to be alarmingly high, in fact according to the latest ONS Statistics 3 out of 4 suicides in the UK are by men. This only furthers the fact that for employers, tackling and providing mental health support should be top of the agenda (see our article about World Mental Health Day for more tips). The statistics from the ONS represent the importance of recognising an event like International Men’s Day to reinforce a sense of inclusivity within your organisation’s culture and create a safe space where all members, regardless of gender, feel comfortable to open up without fear of being judged.
The parental care system in the UK currently only allows men to take two weeks of paternity leave which is unsurprisingly, not enough time to bond with a new-born and equally provide support to mothers. For men to be given more time off and apply for the Shared Parental Leave, a couple must sacrifice the length of the mother’s maternity leave. International Men’s Day is an ideal opportunity for businesses to reflect and amend any HR parental leave policies.
Now we’ve established why it’s important, let’s explore some ways we can embrace the day in style:
#1 Create a mini-conference
Invite influential guest speakers to talk about the wider issues facing men in today’s society such as mental health and toxic masculinity. You could even invite the men in your company to open up and share experiences, creating a culture which is free of judgement. If you’re stuck for inspiration – take a look at the International Men’s Day website where they’ve highlighted just a few of the events taking place across the country to mark the day.
#2 Get loud on social media
Encourage your employees to get involved on social media by either posting about the day across various platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc or posting a selfie to pledge support using hashtags like #internationalmensday, #celebratemen and #stopmalesuicide. Spotlight a series of life stories of a handful of iconic male role models, either from wider society or even within your own organisation.
#3 Donate to a men’s charity
There are lots of charities dedicated to providing support for men. One such example is the Movember Foundation who run the popular Movember challenge, where men grow their facial hair during the month of November without shaving. The motivation of such an event is to raise awareness about men’s cancer and suicide rates.
#4 Check in with the men in your life
Use the opportunity of International Men’s Day to show appreciation and gratitude for the men in your life. Thank them for everything they do, check in and ask them how they’re doing at that moment. Be sure to celebrate any wins they share with you, however big or small they might be. Some may argue men are celebrated every day, however not every man is celebrated to the same degree, and events like International Men’s Day are important for spreading awareness.
#5 Host a viewing party
If you want to showcase some great men who have shown fortitude by opening up and getting personal, there’s a myriad of interviews online to show to your office. Jason Fox, a former Special Forces Officer, shared his experiences on This Morning of his struggle with PTSD. Jeff Brazier, a media star, frequently encourages an open and honest discussion sharing on Good Morning Britain his traumatic experience of losing a loved one and struggling to find a sense of purpose. Businesses could even host a movie night and show a documentary film like The Red Pill (2016) which explores the men’s right movement.