Open post

Light at the end of a long dark tunnel for male victims of domestic violence?

by Dr John Barry

Picture: outside the European Union (EU) Parliament in Brussels. L-R Dr John Barry, Marta Iglesias Julios, Prof Joaquim Soares, Prof Nicola Graham-Kevan, Eduardo Zugasti.

Many of us will have found that when we try to discuss men’s mental health issues we are met with disinterest or even derision. It has even been suggested that men in general are so privileged that they don’t need any male-specific help.

It could be that there is especially little sympathy for male victims of domestic violence, even amongst male victims themselves. There are lots of reasons for this. In general, neither men nor women want to see men as victims. Also, the domestic violence industry is focused almost exclusively on female victims, and any sign that funding will be diverted to male victims is not welcomed with open arms. Campaigners such as Erin Pizzey and researchers such as Prof Murray Strauss have experienced threats and abuse, and it is true to say that the decades since the 1970s have been bleak times for people sympathetic to male victims of domestic violence.

But now in 2018, perhaps we are seeing the first green shoots of fresh thinking about domestic violence:

Since September 2018 we have seen Mark Brooks and the Mankind Initiative in the UK feature prominently in the mainstream media, including the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC1  They – especially Mark himself – are to be congratulated for the determination and professionalism.

27th November 2018 saw Dr Liz Bates (University of Cumbria, UK) be honoured with an award for her research on male victims of domestic violence as one of the ‘UK’s Best Breakthroughs’ in academia this year.

4th December 2018 saw a meeting in the EU parliament in Brussels, focusing on research evidence of the extent of domestic violence against men worldwide, compiled by Professor Joaquim Soares (Mid Sweden University). In the same meeting, Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan (University of Central Lancashire, UK) discussed research into the sometimes devastating impact on children of witnessing domestic violence. Marta Iglesias Julios, a PhD candidate from Portugal, gave a very thought-provoking presentation on the potentially far-reaching harm caused by non-physical violence (e.g. spreading malicious rumours) of the type that women tend to engage in more than men do on average. The forum was organised by MEP Teresa Giménez Barbat and Euromind, and was very positively received. For me it was a very pleasant surprise that support for male victims of domestic violence is alive and healthy in Europe.

So it appears that this topic is moving from the hinterlands and breaking into mainstream consciousness. What we need to see is this progress continuing in a sustainable manner. To facilitate this process, it would be helpful if the following developments were to occur:

1/ We need for the mainstream media – especially the BBC who we pay a tax for –  to tell the people of the UK the truth about domestic violence, not distortions of the truth. Failure to devote proportionate time to male victims should be condemned as a breach of the BBC code of impartiality.

2/ Greater recognition of the lack of services for male victims is needed. For example, male-specific treatment programmes – not the widely discredited Duluth model –  and other types of male-friendly support are urgently needed.

3/ We need greater recognition of the huge sacrifices made by people working in the field of male victims of domestic violence. Many people are doing incredible work voluntarily, or survive on a shoestring, in their efforts to help male victims.

Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, this tunnel is filled with obstacles. Funding to help male victims is still almost unheard of. Even the excellent MankindInitiative charity recently almost had to shut down due to lack of funding. Ironically, because of the recent heightened awareness of male victims, the domestic violence industry – after years of focusing only on helping women – are apparently now keen to apply for funding so that they can extend their services to men. This isn’t a solution, mainly because the domestic violence industry has a reputation for treating men as perpetrators rather than victims, and because most women (and probably many men) will not be happy with having mixed-sex shelters and other facilities in this highly sensitive field.

So is there room for optimism when it comes to male victims of domestic violence? My answer is that we should be realistic and recognise the gains that are being made, strive to build upon them, and be prepared to have to work hard to finally reach the light.

 

About the author

John is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. After completing his PhD in psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome, he joined University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health at the UCL Medical School in 2011. Since then he has published some 60 papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including in international-standard journals in gynaecology, cardiology and ophthalmology. Prompted by the considerable suicide rates among men and the establishment’s inertia in dealing with men’s mental health problems, in 2011 John led an independent research programme investigating the mental health needs of men and boys. John specialises in research methods (especially surveys and questionnaire development) and statistical analysis (e.g. meta-analysis, meta-regression), currently practices clinical hypnosis on a part-time basis and is an honorary lecturer with the Dept of Psychology, University College London.  John is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

 

 

 

Open post

Domestic abuse is a public health issue that impacts men too.

by Teresa Giménez Barbat [1][2]

In April 2018, I presented a written question to the European Commission on male victims of domestic abuse, in light of the scarce attention they met in the European Programmes of assistance and prevention. In her response, the European Commissioner of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Ms Vera Jourova, recognized that “men and women can also be victims of gender violence”, but justified the current bias in European policies with the fact that “the immense majority of victims of gender violence are women and girls”.

The explanation did not satisfy me. On one hand, it is problematic that the Commissioner founded the EU official position on a survey that deals with violence against one sex only. On the other hand, it contrasts with available scientific evidence, according to which, men, and of course boys and adolescents, also suffer domestic abuse –including sexual abuse– in a way that is far from trivial.

Since the 1970’s, several studies and meta-analyses (studies of studies) consistently show that there are male victims and female aggressors in the domestic sphere. This work is based on confidential and anonymous surveys administered to different population groups, including students, clinical and community samples. Using this methodology, researchers try to minimize the bias of police and hospital records, which usually –according to experts– tend to underestimate male victimization. This methodology, of course, has its own limitations (such as the danger of underestimating the prevalence of aggressions), but some basic conclusions are stronger year after year, and decade after decade: women tend to use physical violence against their partners in a similar proportion to men, according to the summary by Medeiros and Strauss (2016). Men are not exempt from severe aggression, though it is clear that more women are killed by their intimate partners than men are.

These basic conclusions converge with a new international study that I presented in the European Parliament last week –it will be soon be published online in the Forum Euromind website, about the intimate-partner violence impact on men and children. This study is authored by Joaquim Soares, Emeritus Professor of Mid Sweden University, and Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan, expert in forensic psychology in the University of Central Lancashire. Both researchers have an important academic curriculum in relation to domestic abuse, including research projects financed by the European Commission, like DOVE. The research of Professor Soares, based on the evaluation of 153 studies from 54 countries about victims, and 151 studies from 44 countries about perpetrators (both men and women), support previous evidence, showing only modest sex differences in average perpetration and victimization associated with intimate-partner violence. This general symmetry in aggression holds, according to the same study, across the different “world regions” analysed: Africa, Europe/Caucasus, Asia/Pacific, Latin-America/Caribbean, Middle East and English-speaking industrialized countries. More research is needed to refine our understanding of these findings, but to achieve this goal there is a need to remove unnecessary obstacles to research, and an increase in financial resources.

As regard to the impact of intimate-partner violence on children, studied by Professor Graham-Kevan, and based on results of 14 studies from 2009 to 2018, the conclusion is that both boys and girls are adversely affected, through different health dimensions, irrespective of the abuser’s gender. This is inconsistent with the current EU and UN focus on “women & girls”. The same author notes the lack of empirical studies on domestic abuse specifically committed by mothers against fathers, a constraint that, maybe, is hiding the real impact of this type of aggression on children.

Another participant in the EU Parliament’s event was the young researcher Marta Iglesias, an expert in female aggression, post-doctoral fellow in Lisbon and active science commentator (she is also the first Spanish author to be published in the digital magazine Quillette). Iglesias lectured on the evolutionary basis behind female aggression, a more indirect type of aggression compared to that of males, but far from “non-existent or harmless”. The fact that a significant part of violence against women is committed by other women, like harassment in school or in the workplace, should be of more concern to us as a legitimate subject of study than it currently is, according to Iglesias.

It is time to deal with domestic abuse between the sexes as a public health issue, with scientific evidence as the basis. Listening to researchers, and not only recognizing the complex and multifactorial nature of the issues –something that the Spanish programmes to detect “homicide risk” in gender-based crimes are beginning to take into account– but also promoting participation and dialogue between all stakeholders in society, is what is needed.

It is also time to expand our empathy toward men and boys. Particularly in a world where male suffering is harder to appreciate, and where most of people naturally tend to “favour policies that benefit women”, as social psychologist Tania Reynolds recently has explained. These evolutionary-based predispositions are maintained across different cultures and could be a “human universal”, but they could also constitute what evolutionary psychologists call a “mismatch” between our ancient, less socially complex, and evolved traits and the new global societies that celebrate equality and cooperation.

Taking into consideration female aggression and male victimization does not harm women’s rights and does not pose a genuine threat to gender equality. Quite the opposite. Male and female violence are more often intertwined in the domestic sphere, including its unfortunate impact on children’s wellbeing.

We need a policy based on evidence, not ideology. With a more compassionate, collaborative and efficient approach to protect our wellbeing, health and security. We owe that to our families, friends and citizens.

 

[1] Originally published in Spanish in “El Mundo”

[2] Teresa Giménez Barbat is a Member of the European Parliament, anthropologist and writer.

 

 

 

 

The first BPS Male Psychology Section Committee

The Male Psychology Section is British Psychological Society (BPS) branch of the Male Psychology Section. The BPS is the professional body for psychologists in the British Isles. A vote at the BPS Annual General Meeting in Leicester on 29th Nov 2018 decided the members of the first BPS Male Psychology Section Committee.

The Committee members are:

Chair: Martin Seager, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section

 

Secretary: Dr John Barry, Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section

 

Treasurer: Dr Kevin Wright, Fellow of the BPS and counselling psychologist.

 

Committee member: Dr Roger Kingerlee, Consultant clinical psychologist, with special interests in male psychologies and Veteran psychological health

 

 

 

 

 

Committee member: Louise Liddon, Trainee Health Psychologist, and Research Assistant with the Male Psychology Network

 

Committee member: Dr Eli Joubert, Clinical Psychologist, Psycho-Sexologist, and Teaching Fellow (Clinical).

 

Committee member: Professor Gijsbert Stoet, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Essex.

 

Committee member: Dr Rebecca Owens, Lecturer in Psychology, Sunderland University.

 

Committee member: Dr Deborah Powney, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Central Lancashire.

 

Committee member: Simon Vearnals, Consultant Psychologist

 

Committee member: Dr Caroline Flurey. Senior Lecturer in Public Health, University of the West of England.

 

 

Open post

Can we discuss gender issues rationally? Yes, if we can stop gamma bias.

Martin Seager and Dr John Barry

Consider this:

1/ The careers and achievements of women in science, politics, business and education are publicly celebrated and promoted in the media, politics and academia.

2/ Boys have been falling behind girls in education since the 1980s. Today, for every 13 girls who enter university, only 10 boys do, but this is not the subject of public concern, media awareness or political action.

Some readers at this point will be experiencing “cognitive dissonance”, the uncomfortable feeling of trying to hold in one’s mind two incompatible ideas. In this case the incompatible ideas are:

1/ There is evidence that women are disadvantaged compared to men

2/ There is evidence that men are disadvantaged compared to women

 

Psychologists know that it’s common for people to harbour all sorts of conflicts, biases and distortions in their thinking. In relation to gender, psychologists have identified alpha bias (exaggerating or magnifying gender differences) and beta bias (ignoring or minimising gender differences). Seager & Barry (2019) have now developed a hypothesis relating to a third cognitive gender bias – gamma bias – which represents a combination of alpha and beta bias. Gamma bias occurs when one gender difference is minimised while simultaneously another is magnified.

The gamma bias phenomenon can be conceptualised as a symmetrical 2*2 matrix of cognitive distortions, the gender distortion matrix. The matrix below describes examples of gamma bias, where perceptions of men and women are differentially magnified (capital letters underlined) or minimised (lower case letters in italics).

 

  GOOD HARM

DO

(active mode) 

FEMALE male

(celebration)

MALE female

(perpetration)

RECEIVE

(passive mode)

MALE female

(privilege)

FEMALE male

(victimhood)

 

Within the “celebration” cell, for example, the positive achievements of women are routinely celebrated as a gender issue. Within the same cell in the table, the positive actions and achievements of men are not similarly celebrated or gendered. For example, when a group of boys was recently rescued from dangerous underwater caves in Thailand, it was not reported as a gender issue or as a positive example of masculinity, despite the fact that all the rescuers were male.

In the “victimhood” cell, domestic violence against women, for example, is highlighted as a gender issue, whereas domestic violence against men is played down or completely ignored, despite the substantial numbers of male victims. When men make up the majority of victims (e.g. suicide, rough sleeping, deaths at work, addiction), the issues are not highlighted or portrayed as gender issues.

Within the “privilege” cell, male privileges are magnified in our media and politics as “patriarchy” whereas female privileges (for example relating to children and family life) are played down or ignored as gender issues.

The overall impact of gamma bias therefore, according to this hypothesis, is that masculinity is made to look significantly worse than it really is whilst simultaneously femininity is made to look significantly better than it really is.

What are the implications of the routine magnifying of the worst of men and minimising the worst of women? Well, for a start we might need to reconceptualise the ‘crisis of masculinity’ as a crisis in our attitudes towards men and masculinity.

Let’s make 2019 the year we wake up to the need to explore our conscious and unconscious biases against men. We hope that the concept of gamma bias and the gender distortion matrix will help people to think more clearly about gender issues.

 

Gamma bias is discussed at length in Seager & Barry’s forthcoming book chapter: Seager M and Barry JA (in press). Cognitive distortion in thinking about gender issues: Gamma bias and the gender distortion matrix, in Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. London: Palgrave Macmillan

 

About the authors

Martin Seager

Martin is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is a consultant clinical psychologist and an adult psychotherapist. He is a clinician, lecturer, campaigner, broadcaster and activist on mental health issues. He has been an honorary consultant psychologist with the Central London Samaritans since 2006 and is also a member of the Mental Health Advisory Board of the College of Medicine. He did a regular slot on mental health for BBC Essex Radio (2003-2007) and BBC Radio Five Live (2007-2009). He set up an advisory group for the last Labour government on mental health issues. He has been an honorary lecturer in psychological therapies at UEL, UCL and Essex University/Tavistock Clinic and has also presented at many international, national and regional conferences on a variety of themes relating to mental health and psychological well-being. Martin is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

John Barry

John is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. After completing his PhD in psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome, he joined University College London’s Institutefor Women’s Health at the UCL Medical School in 2011. Since then he has published over 60 papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including in international-standard journals in gynaecology, cardiology and ophthalmology. Prompted by the considerable suicide rates among men and the establishment’s inertia in dealing with men’s mental health problems, in 2011 John led an independent research programme investigating the mental health needs of men and boys. John specialises in research methods (especially surveys and questionnaire development) and statistical analysis (e.g. meta-analysis, meta-regression), currently practices clinical hypnosis on a part-time basis and is an honorary lecturer with the Dept of Psychology, University College London.  John is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

 

 

 

 

Open post

Men Bereaved by Abortion

by author and journalist John Waters

One of the more commonplace arguments that crops up in relation to abortion is that it is a matter on which only women should have a voice. Even if we are to take this argument on its own reductive “gender” terms, an obvious question arises: may anyone speak on behalf of the male 50 per cent of those human creatures whose existences are snuffed out by abortion?

But there is another unspoken category of overlooked humans here also: the might-have-been fathers of those obliterated children. It is noticeable that, when this issue is referred to at all in these discussions, it usually gets disposed of in the conventionally censorious terms our society has contrived to dispose of fathers: “Oh, he won’t be seen for dust”, etc. etc. Just as self-styled “liberals” use hard cases to bludgeon problematic principles, they also like to advance worst-case caricatures to disallow the claims of inconvenient parties whose involvement might complicate things more than liberals like (a pretty low threshold, generally speaking).

But imagine a 19 year-old boy, perhaps your son, brother or nephew, who gets his 18-year-old girlfriend pregnant. The pregnancy is unplanned, i.e. in conventional terms “unwanted”. In the culture we have constructed of recent times, the question of the child’s survival is a matter primarily for the woman. Perhaps her parents will become involved, but nowadays this is unlikely to alter the dynamic significantly. The man or his family have no right to an opinion. The culturally-allocated role of the might-be father is to offer “unconditional support”.

But let’s imagine that the woman has not quite made up her mind.  She is taking her time with the decision. This, we insist, is her prerogative entirely. The man – the putative father of the child-in-the-balance has no entitlement to speak for himself or his would-be son or daughter. He waits to hear the fate of his child.

In that period of uncertainly, what is to be his disposition? He may be about to become a father or he may not.  Indeed, in his own mind he may already be a father, but this is something he will be well advised to keep to himself.

Western societies increasingly take the following view: If his child is allowed to live, this man must be available, for the rest of his life, to love and provide for his child – emotionally, materially, psychologically, and in manifold other ways. He will be expected – by the mother, her family and friends, and by society in general – to step up to the plate and become a loving, caring and responsible father. He will also be expected to live his life thenceforth as if these days or hours of indecision and mulling-over have never occurred –  as if the idea of obliterating his child had never been considered. From the moment his child is delivered from the threat of the abortionist’s knife, he must locate in himself the qualities of love, devotion, duty and protectiveness that society feels entitled to demand from a father while implacably refusing him the legal basis from which to protect his child.

If, on the other hand, it is decided that his child is to be destroyed, he should be able to go about his life as if nothing has happened, as if he never had a child, the prospect of a child, even the thought of a child.

You do not hear or read much in the media about male bereavement by abortion, but it is nonetheless a real syndrome, documented in numerous academic studies. This research tells us that abortion causes many men to become emotionally overwhelmed, to experience disturbing thoughts, feelings of grief and loss. They react either by silence or hostility.

Reviewing how abortion impacts intimate relationships, Coleman, Rue & Spence (2007) reported that men tend to exert greater control than women over the expression of painful emotions, and so tend to intellectualize grief, and cope alone. The study also found that men are inclined to identify their primary role as providing support for their partners, even after an abortion—even if they opposed the decision. The study also revealed that men are more likely than women to experience feelings of despair long after the abortion, and are accordingly more at risk of suffering chronic grief.  Another study, (Coyle, 2007) found that men whose children have been aborted experience feelings of grief, guilt, anger, depression, anxiety, helplessness, powerlessness, and other feelings akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that they tend to repress these feelings rather than expressing them.  PTSD symptoms, which manifest in 40% of men implicated by abortion, can take an average of 15 years to manifest. Some studies (Coleman & Nelson, 1998; Kero & Lalos, 2000; and Lauzon et al., 2000; Mattinson, 1985) have found evidence that some men grieve more than the mother following the loss of an unborn child, giving the lie to conventional notions about the male as emotionally disconnected from his child. In fact, a great number of men experience abortion as the actual death of a child. Such feelings are frequently exacerbated by the man’s inability to understand what the woman expects of him, with many women experiencing ambivalent feelings which cause them to emit contradictory and confusing messages. Due to the relentless propaganda that attends such matters, many men assume that their role is to ‘support’ the woman even when he disagrees with the decision to abort, whereas in truth the woman may secretly wish for the father to talk her out of killing the child.

I wonder: in the event that his child is not permitted to live, at what precise moment is the father expected to extinguish in himself the love, duty, affection and devotion that would have been required to parent a living child – and demanded of the father by society, even though it simultaneously forbids him to have any say in the matter? Or, conversely, if the child is given the green light, does the father’s responsibility to ignite in himself the various qualities that are expected of a good-enough father begin from the moment of the announcement of the baby’s reprieve? Or is such a suddenly incorporated father entitled to a period of time to initiate the process of ignition in himself? If so, how long might he have to do this?

Of what do we imagine a man is made?

Does modern Western society imagine that its young males come equipped with some hidden mechanism for use when their children are annihilated – when, having been briefly invigorated with the possibility of fatherhood, they find that the emotions normally called upon in this context are not needed? Or, on the other hand, do we—collectively, I mean—believe that a man who has started in himself the process of grieving his child should be able to arrest this procedure and behave as though his child had merely had a miraculous recovery from a serious illness?

What kind of men might such a society expect to produce? Automatons with switches secreted in various regions of their bodies for turning on and off their human passions and emotions? Or – if flesh-and-blood males with real human desires, affections and capacities – what might we expect to happen to the hearts of men under such a regime? Would a society such as ours be entitled to be surprised if it ended up producing male humans who were incapable of loving, or grieving, or telling the difference between?

 

About the author

John Waters is a Permanent Research Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. Having started his career in 1981 with the Irish Music journal Hot Press, he later wrote in The Irish Times from 1990 to 2014. His first book, Jiving at the Crossroads (1991), about Irish politics around the 1980s, became a massive best-seller. He has written a number of books and plays for stage and radio and currently writes a fortnightly essay for the American magazine of religion in the public square, First Things. His latest book – Give us Back the Bad Roads – has just been published

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

You can’t help men by attacking masculinity

by Dr John Barry

You might not have noticed it, but in many countries November 19th was International Men’s Day.  The UN has four international days for women, but for the UN November 19th is World Toilet Day.

It seems to be the fashion today to attribute many of the world’s ills to men. Although some people directly attack men, often the attack is presented as a way of helping men by rescuing them from masculinity.

The term ‘toxic masculinity’ is often seen in the media, but the evidence that toxic masculinity explains men’s bad behaviour is based on the circular argument that 1/ violence and sexism are part of the definition of masculinity, and 2/ violent and sexist men are proof that masculinity is toxic. However the reality is that 1/ masculinity does not need to be defined by violence or sexism and 2/ psychologists know that violence and sexism are usually rooted in trauma, not masculinity. In fact, some of the very worst examples of violent sex offending are caused by men having been sexually abuse in childhood, often by female caregivers.

It is surely difficult to empathise with violent and sexist men, but we know that there are evidence-based ways of dealing with them. Professional psychologists have an ethical obligation to use treatments that are evidence-based, not faddish programmes offering to help men overcome their burdonsome masculine traits.

The forerunner of such programmes is the Duluth Model, a psychoeducational perpetrator program based on the notion that all domestic violence is caused by patriarchy, which causes men to exert control over women through violence. A meta-analysis found that Duluth, and interventions using similar ideas, showed only about half the benefit of other programmes, such as relationship enhancement. This, and the failure of the Duluth model to even recognise that at least a third of victims of domestic violence are male, should persuade us against using models based on flawed ideas about men and masculinity. Unfortunately this lesson has not been learned, as demonstrated in pages 124-8 of the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF). Attempts to change masculinity have been compared with conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexuality. Conversion therapy has recently been condemned by the BPS, yet attacks on masculinity go unquestioned.

Some people might say they want to change masculinity rather than change men, but this is based on the mistaken belief that masculinity is merely learned, and independent of biology. However there are obviously biological aspects to masculinity. Using Martin Seager’s dimensions of masculinity to demonstrate this, being a Fighter & Winner is supported by men’s physiology, such as greater muscle power and upper body strength. Having Mastery & Control of one’s feelings is supported by the tendency of testosterone to reduce fear and increase stress resilience, and being a Provider & Protector is seen in the fact that for men wellbeing is strongly linked to job satisfaction. The tremendous value of these attributes should not be forgotten, especially in 2018, the centenary of the end of World War I, a time when so many men were the protectors of civilisation.

There are undoubtedly many positive things about masculinity, and stigmatising masculinity is likely to make men feel ashamed and alienated. If negative views are internalised they could even become a self-fulfilling prophesy, putting boys on a mission to live up to the toxic label imposed on them.

Psychologists need to lead the way in offering evidence-based solutions to men’s mental health problems, and should not stand idle when 50% of the world’s population is being stigmatised in the media and elsewhere.

 

About the author

John is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. After completing his PhD in psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome, he joined University College London’s Institutefor Women’s Health at the UCL Medical School in 2011. Since then he has published over 60 papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including in international-standard journals in gynaecology, cardiology and ophthalmology. Prompted by the considerable suicide rates among men and the establishment’s inertia in dealing with men’s mental health problems, in 2011 John led an independent research programme investigating the mental health needs of men and boys. John specialises in research methods (especially surveys and questionnaire development) and statistical analysis (e.g. meta-analysis, meta-regression), currently practices clinical hypnosis on a part-time basis and is an honorary lecturer with the Dept of Psychology, University College London.  John is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

The new The Harry’s Masculinity Report (USA) gives lots of reasons to celebrate International Men’s Day.

by Dr John Barry

We hear a lot of negativity about men and masculinity these days, and that can’t be good for men’s mental health. The phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ has become so commonplace that the Oxford English Dictionary declared ‘toxic’ the ‘word of the year’.

Most of the negativity comes from the media, but gender studies, sociology, and even some people in psychology have decided that the root of men’s problems is in their masculinity. Although perhaps well meaning, efforts to help men by blaming masculinity are inevitably inferior to efforts to help men by trying to understand men by using some empathy. Empathy and the scientific method are staples of psychology, but all to often seem to be forgotten when it comes to understanding men’s mental health.

That is why the Harry’s Masculinity Report USA, launched today, is such a welcome step in the right direction. Harry’s, a firm best known in the US for selling barber’s products, have sought to understand the core values of their target audience – men.

With input from the Harry’s team I designed a questionnaire, used last year by 2000 men in the British Isles, to gain insights into what factors promote mental wellbeing in men in the USA. From our sample of 5000 men, we found that – like the UK sample – men are happiest when they are in fulfilling work and a stable relationship. They value ideals such as honesty over athleticism. Interestingly, some of the happiest men are those in active military service, and some of the least happy were those who identified as non-binary rather than male.

The findings of this report, which are published on International Men’s Day here should be a wake-up call to anybody who thinks that masculinity is something that needs to be changed. I would suggest that rather than devalue masculinity and try to change it – as psychologists used to do with homosexuality – we should start to see the positives in masculinity, and explore the ways in which masculinity can benefit men’s mental health.

My call to psychologists is: let’s start treating men with the empathy that we would extend to any other client group. Let’s stop the imaginative theorising about the ways in which men and masculinity are flawed, and start to open our eyes to the positives about men and masculinity. It’s my belief that taking a positive approach to masculinity will not only benefit men, but benefit women, children, and society.

 

The report is available to download here from 19th Nov 2018

About the author

John Barry is co-founder, with Martin Seager, of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. John and Martin are giving two talks on the week of International Men’s Day, both of which are free and open to the public. Details are here

Open post

What men need for a good nights sleep

by Sara Westgreen

 

Sleep is different for men and women

Sleep needs, circadian rhythms, and performing well on sleep deprivation are not the same among men and women. Learn about the unique needs men have for sleeping well.

Women tend to fall asleep earlier than men. That’s because in women, circadian rhythms run earlier than men. And women have shorter circadian cycles than men, with some women running internal clocks with a full cycle under 24 hours. Women naturally need to go to sleep earlier than men, and men may have trouble falling asleep earlier. Men tend to have an easier time sleeping in, assuming they have time to do so.

Overall, men tend to sleep less than women. A study of gendered sleep time found that women get 507.6 minutes of sleep per day compared to 496.4 minutes of sleep for men. However, women are more likely to report interrupted sleep. Men are less likely to nap than women and more likely to go to bed after midnight.

Men can handle sleep deprivation better than women. Although both men and women need adequate sleep each night, women struggle more when sleep deprived, experiencing more difficulties with depression and irritability when they’re short on sleep than men do. However, both men and women experience a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions when sleep deprived.

Men are also less likely to suffer from sleep disorders. Typically, women are more likely than men to experience sleep disorders that result in daytime sleepiness. But male snoring can be severe — severe enough to force bed partners to sleep in a different room.

Men experience more deep sleep than women, with more NREM stage 1 and stage 2 sleep, and tend to dream more. Men may experience more aggressive dreams than women.

 

What men need for a good nights sleep

As men and women sleep differently, men have different needs for getting healthy sleep. Use these tips that can be helpful for men who need better sleep.

  • Set a later wake up time. Women have an earlier circadian rhythm than men and will start to feel sleepy and need to go to bed earlier than men. With a later bedtime, men also need a later wake time to get sufficient sleep each night.
  • Get more time to sleep. Although men can handle sleep deprivation better than women, that’s not to say they should. Men tend to sleep less than women, possibly due to their later bedtime. But the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep each night to get enough rest and maintain good health.
  • Be consistent with sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each night and day can help you stay on schedule and sleep better. It’s a good idea to sleep and wake up within about an hour of your usual time each night and day, even on weekends and on vacation.
  • Go through a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids, they’re for everyone. A bedtime routine signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep once you start going through the motions of getting to bed. It can be simple, such as dimming the lights, putting away electronics, and putting on pajamas.
  • Avoid sleep pitfalls. Men may go to sleep later, but it’s not a good idea to push your bedtime further than it should be. Screen time, caffeine, even exercise and late night snacks can interfere with getting to bed on time. Avoid screen exposure at least one hour before bed and don’t drink coffee after 3 p.m. Make late night snacks light, and finish exercising at least three hours before bed. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, consider using a natural sleep aid.
  • Make your bedroom dark and quiet. Men need deep sleep, which means avoiding sleep interruptions. Darkness and quiet can help you stay asleep so you can get the deep sleep you need for a restful night.

Men and women may sleep differently, but everyone needs a good night of sleep to feel well and be healthy. Make sleep a priority and cater to your unique sleep needs.

 

About the author

Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on. Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

 

 

Open post

5 ways woodworking might help with PTSD recovery

By Robert Johnson

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause many functional problems. People might lose their jobs, partners, or families. Some use drugs to self-medicate, but the bad feelings and strange behaviors can’t be cured by psychoactive substances. However with the help of the right therapy, engrained habits can change.

For someone suffering from PTSD, changing engrained habits can sound about as easy as  landing a rocket onto the Moon. Nevertheless,  the first giant leap is relatively simple: to find something that will occupy the overactive mind. Simple routine change can make life easier, and finding a hobby or any type of occupation will help you to relax.

In my experience, woodworking has proved an interesting and therapeutic way to direct the brain. These are the five reasons I think woodworking is good for wellbeing.

 

1/ You get your concentration back

Making a frame or a new piece for your kitchen is something that needs your full attention. Think about it like this: you need to consider proportions, ways to cut the wood, how to use the machines, how to make a final product look as it should, finishing, painting etc. While drawing a sketch of a wood product and processing the wood, your attention is 100% there. It is hard to keep it there all the time, but continuing to try over and over is something that will definitely improve your concentration, and as a consequence your overall wellbeing.

 

2/ You create meaning 

Imagine you make one piece of wood; a pen holder for instance. You can use it or give it as a present to someone you love. This is something that gives real meaning to the piece, to the person who made it and to the person who receives it.. People doing woodworking are giving a new meaning to a piece of wood, to themselves and to the person that will use that piece.

 

3/ You follow the cycle and enjoy every part of it

Up and down, back and forth. Rules always follow; it is the same here. The process of woodworking will start with an unshaped piece, the move to planning, choosing adequate equipment, the work itself and finishing. Every part is important in the process and it should be followed by a dedication and interaction. While interacting, we should try to enjoy it. Try to see a splinter as wood decoration for your floor. Every splinter and every shaving helps your piece to shape and transform to its purpose.

 

4/ You remove a rough edge on a piece (and in your life)

It takes dedication to remove the rough edge on a wooden piece and make it smooth. How many edges need to be removed in order to make a wooden cup? Good question, but the answer is always: we remove as many edges as we need to make a perfect cup. The same is in life. Rough edges of anger, bad feelings, situations, people, and traumas need to be softened. Imagine you want to make your life into that wooden cup. Make every removed edge on your piece a small removal of your inner edges.

 

5/ You learn how to lose. You learn how to win.

In a woodshop, you are sometimes a winner and sometimes a loser; as you are in life. But, in your small wood world, you are dealing with it alone. No one can know that you won, nor lost. This is something that can help you accept that there are ups and downs all the time and that we need to move on, deal with every new down and grow with every new up. For PTSD, accepting the fact that we were not able to make the piece we wished will make us feel more relieved about the fact that we are not able to cope with the trauma in the way we wished. But we can try, and try again, realizing that sometimes the process is more important and rewarding than the product.

 

About the author

Robert is a woodworking enthusiast whose passion for power tools is expressed through writing. He is the founder, owner, and main author of Sawinery.net, a blog site dedicated to his personal reviews of different types and specific models of saws. Through the years, his interest in woodworking expanded beyond tools, which started his quest to write about woodworking projects and fascinating stories of woodworkers as well.

Open post

Psychology should benefit all prisoners, not just female prisoners

This blog was first published as a letter in The Psychologist, November 2018 issue

 

Chris Millar makes the case for a more compassionate and psychologically informed treatment of prisoners (‘Careers’, August 2018). We fully support this but would suggest that this is applied equally to male prisoners, because all of the reasons Millar gives for supporting women also apply to men.

Even where the figures appear to apply more to women (e.g. ‘53 per cent [of women] report emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared with 27 per cent of men’), it is very likely that there is underreporting by male prisoners of such abuse. In addition to societal pressures making it more difficult for men to discuss experiences of victimisation, men are often not asked by staff about abuse to the same degree that women are. However, appropriate investigation can be revealing, for example, Murphy (2018) found that 66 per cent of male sex offenders with personality disorders have a history of childhood sexual abuse, 72 per cent have a history of physical abuse and 80 per cent have a history of neglect.

Having compassion for male offenders is more of a challenge than for female offenders, because men often express their trauma in violence and aggression that is directed at others. Regardless, psychologists should rise to this challenge and see male offenders as equally deserving of psychological healthcare as female offenders. Society has much to gain by the successful treatment of men’s mental health issues.

 

Dr Naomi Murphy
HMP Whitemoor, Cambridgeshire

Dr John Barry
University College London

 

Reference
Murphy, N. (2018). Embracing vulnerability in the midst of danger: Therapy in a high secure prison. Existential Analysis 29(2), 174–188.

 

 

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