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Always Ask Twice

Challenging Male Mental Health Stigma


Mental health. It’s an incredibly pressing issue for societies around the world over – but we are making progress.

Year on year, we’re gaining a better understanding of its impact on all aspects of our lives: from its impact on our personal wellbeing (both mental and physical) to how our own experiences impact others, whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues.

Sadly, like so many of the societal shifts towards positive progress, the changes taking place are far too slow for our liking, and in some cases, they’re fighting back against deep-rooted stigma and stereotypes around gender roles.


Setting the Scene

When it comes to male mental health, there are few more problematic examples of this than being told to ‘man up’.

Societies around the world, rightly or wrongly, have developed certain ideas around what it means to be a man and what’s expected of men.

Think of ‘the man is the breadwinner’.

The ‘strong and silent’ type.

The ‘alpha’ male.

The sad reality is the inarguable outcome of these ideas, and others like them, is that too many men around the world have grown up feeling emotionally stifled, unable to express their feelings, and less likely to reach out for help when they need it – and the damaging effects of it are all too clear.

Across the world, there are too many tragic stories (past and present) that have come out of this cultural backdrop, too much harm and trauma both experienced by men and caused by men on others of every gender.

Misunderstandings around the need to achieve societal equality and equity across all genders have added to the struggle.

As per the UK’s Mental Health Foundation:

  • One in eight men is likely to have a common mental health problem – and given the nature of underreporting or cases that go undiagnosed, it could well be more
  • Three times more men than women die by suicide
  • Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
  • The government’s national wellbeing survey shows men reporting lower levels of life satisfaction than women
  • Only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men

The sad truth is that we could keep going through the data and uncovering more examples of the problem – but we think this makes the case well enough.

The need for change is all too clear.


Pushing for Change

As societies, we need to break the stigma around male mental health.

Societies and workplaces where all men can express themselves positively and talk about their mental health free from stigma or judgement are, quite simply, better for everyone.

Men are wonderful and capable of so much good, and the best way to help fulfil this potential is to push for societies centred on equity and equality for all genders, openness and understanding.

We need to end the pressure on men to ‘man up’, and instead help men ‘open up’, whether it’s at home or at work.


Experts in Learning: Driving Change Through Film

And this, as they say, is where we come in.

We’ve spent over 30 years helping to drive positive change through our films, helping organisations and companies of all kinds encourage better conversations around vital issues at home and within the workplace – and we’re committed to helping push for better conversations around male mental health.

We believe film can help drive positive change in a way that many alternatives can’t. It provides the opportunity to present authentic, compelling scenarios to an audience in a clear manner that they can recognise and gain the key messages without the need to ‘spell it out’ – a vital aspect of delivering learning with impact.

We’ve become experts in driving learning through films for many of our clients, whether it’s as a one-off film for a wider campaign or as interactive learning courses, including extensive work focusing on mental health.


Our Work in Action: ‘Always Ask Twice’ 

One of our most significant, longstanding partnerships is with Network Rail, for whom we’ve delivered an extensive range of films and learning content focusing on the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – and a prime example of our recent work is the film, Always Ask Twice.

Network Rail needed a piece that would help educate employees on the importance of discussing mental health and recognising the importance of speaking up.

It needed to focus on male mental health and perceptions around needing to ‘man up’ – because the statistics are distressing.

Approximately 80% of NR’s workforce identify as male; if you apply the Mental Health Foundation’s findings above, there’s a likelihood that c. 10% of the organisation’s whole workforce – potentially 4,000 people – could be experiencing a common mental health problem. In light of this, the importance of conversations around mental health, and challenging stigma regarding male reticence, is paramount.

Our solution was simple yet powerful. It’s likely that we’ve all been in situations where someone we know is struggling but will initially fend off efforts to help them before eventually allowing themselves to open up at the 2nd time of asking – and that became our starting point.

The result is a 2-min piece focused on two relatable, authentic male characters and showcasing two scenarios: how we wish a conversation in this space could happen, and the more likely scenario that we may expect to occur – and how to approach in with compassion and care.

The Results were Highly Encouraging

Since watching the film, 81% of managers responding to the six-month follow up survey had at least one conversation with a team member about mental wellbeing. Further, 56% have been able to spot signs and symptoms of reduced mental wellbeing, 84% feel confident to have a sensitive conversation and 72% feel confident to use a mental wellbeing discussion tool.  Confidence rating to having a conversation, spotting signs and symptoms and supporting employees has improved drastically with employees.

The film was such a success that the audience was expanded much more broadly than originally intended, with many positive comments fed back…

– ‘this has such a powerful message’

– ‘a brilliant video which has been included in our periodic briefing presentations so all our front line workers get to see it’

– ‘What a fantastic video. As I reflect I can think back to times where someone has said they are ok but my instincts tell me something different. This video has really challenged me to make sure I always follow my instincts and #asktwice’


The Edge: Here to Help

Always Ask Twice is just one example of our expertise on this vital issue, and you can find more here

We’ve got over 30 years of experience in helping companies drive important conversations around wellbeing in the workplace, and we’re always looking to bring that expertise to bear for organisations looking to initiate lasting, positive change.

If you’re looking to create standalone films that help challenge and change workplaces for the better, or learning courses that focus on delivering engaging, effective content around tough issues such as mental health and wellbeing, we’re here to help – and we’d love to discuss what you need today, just drop us an email at



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