Why it Started
How it came about
How it came about (over a drink at the pub)
As clinicians, through experience and learning, we are aware that roots of psychological distress often lie within people’s experiences. The nature, endurance and impact of distress can often be affected by people’s circumstances and cultural identity. As Clinical Psychologists and men we have become more aware of the effect that the idea of masculinity has on our identity. We have seen that the concept of masculinity can act as both a protective and injurious thread to our identity. In spite of this common observation, there is little attention given to how organisations and work should be adapted to meet the different needs of women, men, boys and girls. We are passionate about working with services, clinicians and individuals in distress to find new ways forward, meeting the needs and honouring the strengths of different gender identities.
So what are some of the specific struggles in masculinity?
Men, and specifically men who endorse more traditional masculine identities, are less likely to seek help for physical and psychological health. It is thought that this contributes to higher mortality rates for men following ill-health.
Men are more likely to engage in behaviour which is thought to have a detrimental effect on health. This can include high alcohol consumption or poor diet. However, on average men do tend to engage in higher levels of exercise.
Men have higher rates of completed suicide. Some of this is thought to result from men tending to use more fatal methods. However, it is also noted that men are less likely to seek help than women.
In traditional masculinity, emotions are funnelled through culturally defined 'acceptable' responses, which can seriously limit the range of expression. This can lead to anger and violence being the predominant responses across situations.
Men are more likely to express emotions externally (expressing at others rather than the self). People expressing distress externally (e.g. aggression) tend to receive more punitive services (e.g. forensic/ criminal justice).
Masculinity intersects with other aspects of our identity to affect how we express emotions (e.g. parenthood, age, sexuality). Men higher in socioeconomic status are less likely to experience some of the detrimental effects of masculinity.
Is it all about struggle?
Not necessarily. We believe that the effect of distress is magnified by inflexibility. For example, having rigid expectations of how masculine identity can be expressed can cause problems when faced with a culture which does not accept or value those expressions.
Taking a more flexible stance to masculinity allows us to honour some of the strengths and also find more workable ways of managing the struggle, in a way which feels genuine and also leads us to feeling more fulfilled.
Having this flexible approach doesn’t end all struggle, but it can make it seem more tolerable. Our passion is to work with individuals, groups and (maybe more grandiosely) larger societal structures to cultivate this flexible approach.