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Will men survive the new South Africa?

by Vincent

As part of our occasional series on views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, psychology student, Vincent, tells us about men’s wellbeing in South Africa.

South Africans began the millennium full of hope and pride, having avoided a violent clash of cultures in 1994 with the ANC’s rise into political power in a previously white-controlled nation. Many men of all races laid down their arms and put their hatred to bed to accept the new age of peaceful integration under the noble but ageing shadow of Nelson Mandela.

These men fought for, or against, Apartheid, both convinced of the existential threat the other posed to their family’s future. No doubt that leaders, politicians and opportunists made good use of their willingness to die for these causes. The liberal class had spent the ’80s watching South Africa be vilified for its persistent racist policies. The ‘Rubicon’ speech in 1985 crushed the spirit of a mostly liberal nation because it removed hope that change could happen and that it could be peaceful. PW Botha, president at the time, began hopeful, talking about change but ultimately backtracked and denied South Africa an honourable transition to democracy.

As a young white Italian male, I witness the xenophobia endemic in Africa. It still plays a role in our culture. Tracing the origins of the antagonism between tribes, cultures and races in South Africa is a sad and ultimately futile endeavour. It seems to be in the soil. Yes, Apartheid divided us, but before them, it was the British Colonial System. Before that tribalism, and preceding that, it was down to droughts and fertile pastures, causing migration and battles for resources (Burman, 1981).

Here we are in 2021.

In a speech given during hard lockdown, South African men are targeted by the democratically elected leader Cyril Ramaphosa; “a war being waged against the women and children of our country”, he said on live TV. He refers to the sudden increase in Gender-Based Violence and rape, which occurred during the lockdowns.

It seems that to withhold alcohol from families living in poverty with little else to distract them from their suffering was a very bad idea. Regardless of how you argue the causes of violence, the scapegoat is the same: men.

I ask, have men not also borne the brunt of lockdowns? Have men in South Africa not paid the price for this new nation one way or another, only to be vilified by their president during a global pandemic? Is it not the same governing party’s policies that have caused the collapse of labour-related jobs for the majority who are unskilled men, leaving them powerless? (Bernstein, 2016).

Is male violence a cause or a symptom?

It is the goal of incompetent governments to find a scapegoat, to blame someone for their failures. Rather than question the rhetoric which is carefully strategized by the ‘command counsel’ of the ANC, we swallow it all. So, we deepen the crisis by ostracising and vilifying the men who could contribute to our growth. Under the modern ideology of intersectionality, the corrupt ‘struggle’ ANC veterans find common cause under Marxism’s shared banner. The children of anti-Apartheid liberal South Africans are urged to find new scapegoats to relinquish the generational guilt. Religion has been lost to this new generation. The ‘demons’ of yesteryear are now their fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, and husbands.

Are we not eating our own?

My experience with men from all over Africa is that they are deeply wounded by their inability to provide for their families. This helplessness leaves them crushed, leading to violence, crime and, significantly, the catastrophic suicide rate we see; three times higher than the UK.

I would encourage respectful masculinity revived from the proud heritage of a resilient continent. Traditions within Africa have sought to give young men rites of passage to adulthood; we can build on this to grow pride, honour and respect within the dynamics embedded in traditional culture. By addressing the needs of males rather than belittling them, by empowering the young father, by giving them self-respect through jobs, through appreciation, we open new versions of masculinity that have so far been denied the men of Africa.

“The temptation to become the vanguard of purity’ as has happened with Marxists, is very great but should be resisted to ensure our remaining in touch with the realities of ordinary people in their day to day struggles” (Ramphele, 1990).

About the author

Vincent is an adult psychology student in South Africa. He also owns a business for 20 years and is involved with his community. As a passionate creative, Vincent has chosen psychology to find expression for his view of the post-Aparthied South Africa and the problems faced by men in a post-conflict era. For three decades he has reflected his ideas through his art and is now finding a voice through the useful constructs of modern psychology. Vincent is married with no children by choice but is conscientious of the world that adolescents are seeing. You can engage with Vincent on twitter @Vincenz59109253


Burman, S. (1981). Creating a Nation. Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from

Gender Equality in South Africa. (2021). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from

PW Botha gives the “Rubicon” Speech in Durban (2005). Retrieved 2 23, 2021, from

Xenophobia: SA Army deployed in Alexandra, Durban. (2015). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from

Bernstein. (2016, April 21). South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis the Worst in the World [Text]. NGO Pulse. (2020). Shocking stats on gender-based violence during lockdown revealed. TimesLIVE.

Ramaphosa on gender-based violence: ‘Their killers thought they could silence them but we will speak for them’ (2020). SowetanLIVE.

Ramphele, M. (1990). Do Women Help Perpetuate Sexism? A Bird’s Eye View From South Africa. Africa Today, 37(1), 7–17.

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A glimpse of limelight from the shoulders of Leviathans

by Nostradormouse 

There always seems to have been a small number of men with a very interesting skill set, who are sufficiently independently minded, have self-taught enough of the skills necessary to be able to participate in the next big thing before it becomes a thing, participate in it while it is still a meritocracy, and before the syllabus to study the area is established. The boundary condition men. The guys waiting around for the boundaries to shift and for something to become possible.

I don’t speak of the polymaths. Turing, Ramanujan, and Newton all propelled society forward in their own heroic or tragic ways, contributing greatly, although memetically rather than genetically. This is about the tool-makers who support the polymaths. The practical men who can build instruments hatched in the fevered mind of a genius. Every Alan Turing needs a Tommy Flowers to refract the pure genius into a solid form. Horatio Nelson knew where he was by being preceded by a century by John Harrison’s clocks.

Often they will spend a lifetime doing the heavy lifting in obscurity, only to become one of Tolkein’s Leviathans of the Landscape upon whose capacious shoulders we stand. The ‘Artist & Engineer’ Type who is always fascinated on general principle, and infinitely curious. The guys who spend fifteen years mastering an apparent technological cul de sac. The guys who the entrepreneur considers to be terribly wasted talent, but are prepared to use to try to fix problems that nobody knows how to even approach.

One of the cruellest tricks that nature plays on men is to give a small number of them sufficient cognitive ability to be objectively confident in their own abilities, resourceful enough to be able to get by, passionate and artistic enough to make enough progress to sustain their interest in an area which nobody else bothers with. Historically, such men either travel and wait for a change of physical boundaries, or are working producing miraculous but useless artifacts, waiting for a technological change where their skills will suddenly enable them to exploit such changes, and do miracles.

The human evolutionary calculus must payoff incredibly well at the level of the culture, since for each Joseph Whitworth, Isembard Kingdom Brunel, and John Harrison, there are a huge number of equally cunning Artificers with the tragic misfortune of being born at the wrong time.

Corporate career pathways tend to emphasise and lionise the managerial path, presumably because the people structuring the profession are all managers. IT companies above a certain size allow for a career path of “guru”, which means creating an internal research post for someone whose expertise they can’t exactly identify, but who is clearly too bright to let go. Skunkworks has huge black budgets that they just throw at a wall to see what sticks.

It makes me happy that the wastage rate is falling as we recognise and appreciate the value of intelligences which may not be exactly the shape and configuration you want, but which are never the less valuable for its rarity. Such men have the advantage of being so other-worldly that of the seven obviously very bright guys you have working for you, you’d need to be one of them to identify which of the geniuses is the polymath.

In an age of gawpers and paparazzi, it is a rare trick indeed to be almost completely invisible to such people unless the process “succeeds” and spits out a once-in-fifty-years or so commercially disruptive innovator like Nicola Tesla or Elon Musk. Last time I looked, Musk seemed to be dealing with being the richest man on the planet with the deft “Sorry, which planet are we talking about?” contempt that endears him to so many engineers. At least he’s handling it better than Tesla, pigeon-love not withstanding.

About the author

Nostradormouse is a UK-based human rights activist.

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Three reasons you will miss pubs when they go extinct

by Dr John Barry

It has often been said that the local pub is an invaluable social hub, especially in rural communities. To those of you who weren’t convinced of this already, perhaps now that the pub is becoming an endangered species due to covid-19 lockdowns, you might be changing your minds.

So what exactly are we losing? Within the rather nebulous idea of the social hub you could unpack many useful activities that are important on a human level, and here are three related to men’s mental health.

1/ Socialising is good for your wellbeing

One of the key needs of human beings, according to Maslow, is social belonging. The pub is a place that creates a space for people to feel that they are part of a group e.g. a place to meet an old friend or make new friends, a great place to tell jokes and stories, to meet for a quick drink before going somewhere else. It can even provide a sense of being among others to someone who is feeling lonely or isolated, as so many people are during lockdown. In any case, research suggests that social drinkers tend to have a better support network, and feel more connected with their community… or at least they used to before covid-19.

2/ Pubs can be a good for your mental health

Apart from the boost to wellbeing of a fun night out, the pub can be one of the few places people can unwind after the demands of a stressful day. This can be especially important to men because it’s well documented that men are less likely than women to seek therapy, and the pub is a place they can talk about their feelings without it feeling like they are on the therapists coach. Even if it’s just looks to the casual observer like someone having a laugh with mates, or sharing a pint with a colleague, it can provide a welcome decompression chamber before getting the train home.

So during lockdown when we can’t go to the pub – or engage in other valuable social activities such as going to sporting events – how can we stay in touch and share a laugh together? It’s important to stay connected with others in whatever way we can, whether via the phone, Zoom etc. One idea is to get a few friends together on a Zoom with a glass of your favourite drink – it can be non-alcoholic of course – and create your own online pub. Maybe one day soon pubs will start doing deliveries for such occasions, who knows – they might need to in order to stay in business.

Note: drinking to excess is bad for your mental health and social life, and can have legal and medical consequences. If you think you might be drinking too much, don’t just tell the barman, seek some professional help.

3/ People will become unemployed 

Pubs have been closing at a frightening rate since the lockdowns began, and it looks like even the iconic Wetherspoons is in trouble. Lots of people enjoy working in pubs, and although job satisfaction is especially good for men’s psychological wellbeing, unemployment is especially bad for men’s mental health.

In conclusion, it all looks a bit grim at present, and it can feel like there’s not a lot you can do. However one positive thing that you can take control of is to join the campaign to save your local pub from closure  Even if you are not a regular, it might do others some good. And you never know when you might need to drop by for a friendly drink. So let’s not let them wither in the vine – let’s do the community some good and do what we can to keep pubs alive.

About the author

Dr John A. Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and Professional Researcher.  He is a leading expert in the areas of male psychology including men’s mental health and the psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). His new book, Perspectives in Male Psychology: An Introduction (ISBN: 978-1-119-68535-7), co-authored with Louise Liddon, is published in April and is available to pre-order. 

Sign up to the Male Psychology Network newsletter by emailing the author at

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Just in case you are not having a merry Christmas…

by Dr John Barry

In case your holiday season is turning out to be less than happy, here are some places you can contact for support:

Samaritans phone lines are open 24/7 (365 days) Tel 116 123 (UK & Ireland)

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) helpline is open 365 days 5pm – midnight. Tel 0800 58 58 58. Or try the CALM webchat

If you are a father experiencing a stressful time post-separation, you can call the Families Need Fathers helpline 0300 0330 363 (9am – 10pm Monday to Friday, 10am – 3pm at weekends).

If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the Mankind Initiative helpline weekdays 10am to 4pm on 01823 334244

For those experiencing a false allegation of abuse, FASO can be contacted from Monday to Friday, 18:00 to 22:00, by phone: 0844 335 1992, or email:


About the author

Dr John A. Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and Professional Researcher.  He is a leading expert in the areas of male psychology including men’s mental health and the psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). His new book, Perspectives in Male Psychology: An Introduction (ISBN: 978-1-119-68535-7), co-authored with Louise Liddon, is published in the new year and is available to pre-order now.

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Special issue on male psychology in the Psychreg Journal of Psychology (Dec 2020)

By Dr John Barry

If you haven’t already seen the December 2020 edition of the Psychreg Journal of Psychology, then take my good advice and go take a look.  I was the guest editor of this edition, with kind support from the Editor-In-Chief, Dennis Rolojo-Howell.

I won’t say more about the special issue here – you can read my editorial (‘Twelve reasons’) for an overview – but instead will lay out before you the table of contents, like a Christmas buffet for my friends. To download a paper, click on the ‘PDF’ link. Enjoy!

December 2020 • Volume 4, Issue 3
Full issue: PDF (4 MB)
Copyright 2020. Psychreg Ltd | ISSN: 2515-138X
Creative Commons Licence

Twelve reasons to take a more balanced view of issues that confront men: Editorial for a special issue on male psychology
John A. Barry | PDF (133 KB)

Job satisfaction, relationship, stability, and valuing one’s health are the strongest predictors of men’s mental well-being
John A. Barry | PDF (469 KB)

Effects of expressive writing on posttraumatic stress symptoms and other traumas: Case study of male clients in therapy settings
Kevin Wright | PDF (253 KB)

Loneliness, impaired well-being, and partner abuse victimisation of separated fathers in Wales
Richard Bradford | PDF (446 KB)

Child contact problems and family court issues are related to chronic mental health problems for men following family breakdown
John A. Barry & Louise Liddon | PDF (304 KB)

Male broodiness: Does the desire for fatherhood affect men?
Robin Hadley | PDF (372 KB)

‘Men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross’: Gender differences in shared-religion bias in identifying with fictional characters
Nathan Hook & Wakefield L. Morys-Carter | PDF (354 KB)

Adults are expected to take responsibility for their problems, especially when those problems are congruent with traditional gender role expectations
John Barry, Martin Seager, Louise Liddon, Jordan Holbrook, & Linda Morison | PDF (237 KB)

Bias against men’s issues within the United Nations and the World Health Organization: A content analysis
James Nuzzo | PDF (632 KB)

A male perspective of psychology from the Rainbow Nation
Angelo Vincenzo De Boni | PDF (282 KB)

Delta bias in how we celebrate gender-typical traits and behaviours
Martin Seager & John A. Barry | PDF (153 KB)

How much are therapists’ views on patriarchy related to their approach to therapy for men? Preliminary findings from a survey
John A. Barry, Louise Liddon, Rob Walker, & Martin Seager | PDF (117 KB)

An open message to the APA on ethics and ideology
Shawn Smith | PDF (148 KB)

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New fathers in lockdown – a golden opportunity

By Dr John Barry

First published as a BPS blog here

If you are like me and became a new dad in the past year or so, you may well have found yourself with unprecedented amounts of time at home with a baby.  For most people this will be a challenge and even trigger depression (see helpline details below), but in fact there can be a silver lining, or even golden opportunity, in being locked down with baby.

A recent meta-synthesis of 13 studies looked at the experiences of new dads of babies up to 12 months old (Shorey & Ang, 2019). Three themes emerged:


Development of the father-infant relationship

Bonding started at around two months when infants began to be able to smile and interact with their dad.

In my experience, it was surprising at how much a baby is able to communicate nonverbally, showing a range of facial expressions that I had presumed must be socially learned. Babies ‘talk’ a lot more than you think.

On reflection, in my experience the bond started the day I very clearly saw my son on a 4D scan, moving around in his mum’s womb in real time. I would recommend 4D scans, especially to prospective dads, because a 4D scan makes the reality of the child much more personal and tangible, and allows men a greater sense of the physical reality of the child before they are born.


Obstacles to getting involved e.g. work

Although reportedly often treated as helpers or even “bystanders” by healthcare professionals during visits to hospital after birth, lots of new dads felt “joy and closeness” when playing, taking care of, or holding their child. Reluctantly in many cases however, work had to come before childcare. This raises the thorny issue of how much a man can afford to take time off work before his career begins to suffer. This is a complex reality that is not easy to resolve. However, lockdown gives many men a great opportunity to get more involved with their child without it impacting their career. Yes, working from home still means you focus on work, but it also means that breaks from work can be much more fulfilling than a quick visit to the canteen.

Becoming a family man

Many new dads felt that the helplessness of their baby caused them to feel protective, responsible, and family-orientated. Furthermore, “fathers were found to intentionally neglect their feelings so that they could focus on their spouses and infants” (Shorey & Ang 2019, p. 15). This occurred in situations ranging from being calm when the mother was nervous and upset, to supressing sexual feelings until the mother felt ready for sex again. This finding is interesting because it is common today for men to be criticised for being stoical, whereas this study shows that strategic stoicism can be altruistic and beneficial, though I should add that talking about your stressful experiences is important too (Liddon & Barry, 2021).

In summary, bonding with your infant can be a uniquely rewarding experience. If you think babies are boring because they can’t talk, stop and think about how much they might be able to tell you with a smile when you cuddle them. Whatever you might think of lockdowns, if your employer is making you stay at home, please do yourself a big favour and don’t let the opportunity to enjoy being a dad pass you by.

For men or women dealing with the stress of being a new parent, contact the PANDAS free helpline: 0808 1961 776. Or for info for new dads contact Fathers Reaching Out

About the author

Dr John A. Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Honorary Lecturer in Psychology at University College London, clinical hypnotherapist, and author of around 80 peer-reviewed publications on a variety of topics in psychology and medicine. John is a professional researcher and has taken an interest in improving the teaching of research methods and statistics. He has practiced clinical hypnosis for several years and is a member of the British Association of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis. His Ph.D. was awarded by City University London, on the topic of the Psychological Aspects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is also the topic of his new book (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is co-founder of both the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS), lead organiser of the Male Psychology Conference, and co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (London: Palgrave Macmillan IBSN 978-3-030-04384-1   DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1). His new book, co-authored with Louise Liddon, Perspectives in Male Psychology: An Introduction, is published by Wiley in early 2021.

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If it’s a man’s world, why isn’t more being done for men’s mental health on World Mental Health Day?

by John Barry

As world mental health day rolls around again this year, we might wonder how much attention and funding is being allocated to the mental health issues that disproportionately impact men, and what is being done to alleviate them. However rather than innovative new interventions and programmes, we are more likely to find masculinity or patriarchy blamed for men’s mental health problems.

Most of the main players in the world of mental health, such as the World Health Organisation, continue to overlook the fact that suicide and death from alcohol predominantly impacts men.  All too often when these sex differences are identified, men are blamed for not seeking help. However this unfair allocation of blame doesn’t take into account the possibility that much of what is on offer does not appeal to male-typical ways of dealing with distress. This male gender blindness and victim-blaming are aspects of gamma bias, a widespread cognitive distortion that erodes empathy for men.

Although the suicide rates vary across cultures, men are more likely to die by suicide than women in almost every country worldwide. The cultural differences in this ratio suggests an impact of culture on suicide, but the fact that the vast majority of countries have more male cases of suicide than female suggests a deeper influence is at play.

Although male socialisation is often blamed for men’s mental health issues, it could be that male-typical ways of dealing with stress are undervalued in the prevailing mental health narrative. The fact that male suicide and substance abuse are higher in almost every country worldwide might be a clue that despite cultural differences, men internationally have different needs when it comes to dealing with distress. It could be that these sex differences have evolutionary roots, a possibility that is almost universally overlooked by the mainstream health services. By overlooking this influence, alternative interventions – based on harnessing adaptive aspects of coping mechanisms – are also overlooked.

The good news is that some charities and third sector organisations have realised that lots of men find mental health benefits in many activities outside the therapist’s office. For example, Men’s Sheds have – probably without intending to – demonstrated that mental health is not all expressing one’s feelings. Having said that, some types of mainstream psychological interventions can be extremely effective, but their specific tailoring to men’s mental health has been almost entirely overlooked.

The solution to men’s mental health problems will vary from man to man, but it is apparent that many of the authorities in mental health have been less than effective in their approaches to men’s mental health. It could be argued that a one-size-fits-all approach has been applied to patients regardless of their sex, using an approach that happens to fit women in general better than it fits men in general.

It would be very welcome if one year we woke up to find that World Mental Health day had started to recognise important gender differences in mental health and therapy.

Maybe one day.

About the author

Dr John Barry is a chartered psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. His new book Perspectives in Male Psychology, co-authored with Louise Liddon, will be published by Wiley around the end of 2020.

If you are feeling under stress, there are people who can offer advice and support. CALM offer advice on issues in general, and can be contacted here. For problems with domestic violence, contact the ManKind Initiative. For problems with family breakdown issues, contact Families Need Fathers.

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: another day, another deaf ear for men

By Dr John Barry

Male suicide has increased since the year 2000. In fact male suicide rates are now at the highest level for 20 years, according to new figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of recorded suicides in 2019, 4,303 were male and 1,388 were female. As usual for the UK since the 1990s, around three quarters of the deaths were male.

What might explain the exacerbation of this continuing tragedy?

According to the ONS: “Higher rates of suicide among middle-aged men in recent years might be because this group is more likely to be affected by economic adversity, alcoholism and isolation. It could also be that this group is less inclined to seek help.” Similarly, The Times newspaper suggested: “Male suicides have reached their highest level in two decades, prompting fears that some desperate middle-aged men are too proud to seek help.”

It is striking that although it is widely recognised that suicide is associated – especially in men – with economic adversity, alcoholism and social isolation, the ONS and Times highlight a lack of help-seeking by men as being the main issue.

The victim-blaming narrative is not only insulting to men and unhelpful in preventing suicide, it also misses the key point: men are not going to talk if society isn’t going to listen.

There are many ways which demonstrate that we are less likely to hear the distress of men than women. For example, when men talk about being the victim of domestic violence, they are often ignored or even laughed at, and when they express distress at not being given adequate access to their children after family breakdown, they often receive little help or sympathy (Liddon & Barry, 2021).

With the lockdown and economic depression associated with COVID-19, we can – very sadly – expect an increase in suicides, especially in men. And – very predictably – we can expect a chorus of victim blaming similar to that seen in recent decades.

We, as a society, need to become more aware of our unconscious bias against men in order to stop victim-blaming men and start helping them.

About the author

Dr John Barry is a chartered psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. His new book Perspectives in Male Psychology, co-authored with Louise Liddon, will be published by Wiley around the end of 2020.

If you are feeling suicidal, there are people who can offer advice and support. CALM offer advice on issues in general, and can be contacted here. For problems with domestic violence, contact the ManKind Initiative. For problems with family breakdown issues, contact Families Need Fathers.

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Regarding masculinity…

by John Barry

It was fantastic to have a chance a few days ago to talk with three legends of the men’s movement:

They were interested in the recent paper by myself and colleagues (Rob Walker, Louise Liddon, and Martin Seager) on the subject of people’s reactions to the comtemporary narratives about masculinity.

Being experts on men’s issues there were some very insightful comments and questions. See the 48 minute discussion here: ‘A Conversation with Dr. John Barry – Regarding Men’.


About the author

Dr John Barry is a chartered psychologist. His new book Perspectives in Male Psychology, co-authored with Louise Liddon, is out soon

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New book: Perspectives in Male Psychology

  • Should we believe everything that we hear about men and masculinity?
  • What role do evolution, biology and culture play in men’s behaviour?
  • Do we tend to blame men for their health problems more than is reasonable?
  • What can be done to reduce male criminality?
  • How can the standard approach to men’s mental health be improved?
  • What does gender equality mean for men?

A new book on male psychology will be available in early 2021, authored by Louise Liddon and Dr John Barry, and published by Wiley.

In around 300 pages this book uses evidence from science to shed light to some of today’s heated issues around men and masculinity. A spectrum of the topics – including education, sport and the workplace – are explored, and questions answered.

You can pre-order the book here.

More information will be available soon. To hear updates on this and other news, sign up to the free newsletter

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