Open post

The other ‘hidden homeless’: autistic men

by Dr John Barry

Around 85% of rough sleepers are men (St. Mungos, 2016). The reasons for homelessness are many and complex, but the most frequently cited reasons for male homelessness are relationship breakdown, substance misuse, or leaving an institution (e.g. prison, care or hospital) (Brown et al, 2019).

At any one time in the UK there are around 5000 rough sleepers (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, 2017). This isn’t counting the group often called the ‘hidden homeless’, a much larger number of people – at least 250,000 – with no stable accommodation (Shelter 2016). We know that almost half of rough sleepers have mental health needs (Combined Homelessness and Information Network, 2017), but these figures don’t identify the other type of ‘hidden homeless’ – people with autism.

Autism effects 1% of the population (Brugha et al, 2016). Autism exists on a spectrum of severity (Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or ASD). There are some interesting gender differences that might lead to underestimates of ASD in females (van Wijngaarden-Cremers, 2019), but most estimates suggest that more severe cases are four times more common in males, and the less severe form (Asperger Syndrome) is nine times more common in males (Barry & Owens, 2019).

Given the fact that most homeless people are male, we would expect a larger proportion of homeless people to have autism. In the first study on this topic published in a peer-reviewed journal, Churchard et al (2019) found that autism is at least 12 times more common in homeless people than the general population (or probably more, if it was possible to identify the ‘hardest to reach’ homeless people). This figure far exceeds the rate you would expect if autism in homeless people was simply due to both autism and homelessness being more common in men. So if gender doesn’t fully explain the over-representation of autism in the homeless population, then why are so many autistic people homeless?

Well, substance abuse does not explain it, because people with autism are less likely to have problems with substance abuse than other people (Butwicka et al, 2017). However Churchard et al (2019) suggest that the greater levels of social isolation experienced by people with autism might be the key; autistic people often have fewer people to turn to if things go wrong in their lives, such as their housing being threatened. People with autism are also less likely to be employed, so might slip into the poverty trap more easily (Calsyn & Winter, 2002). Churchard et al also suggest that because people with autism are more likely to experience sensory difficulties (e.g. finding noise distressing), this makes living in shared accommodation or a hostel virtually impossible. Also for those with cognitive impairments to abilities such as planning, everyday independent living might become virtually impossible.

Although the current level of knowledge regarding homelessness and autism is very basic, there has been some progress by a group called Homeless Link (2015), who have created practical guidelines on how to identify autism in homeless people, and how to communicate in a way that best facilitates support for the homeless person.

This article only scratches the surface of mental health issues in homelessness. Other issues that impact the general population of homeless people include a history of childhood abuse and neglect, seen in 80% of homeless people (Torchalla et al. 2012). This type of history creates special problems for housing homeless people, because they may have learned to associate home with abuse and neglect (Duffy & Hutchison, 2019). Trauma prior to homelessness is also common (e.g. military-related PTSD), as is trauma as a result of life on the street (Buhrich et al. 2000).

More research is needed to identify the scale of the problem of autism in homelessness, and to develop evidence-based methods of helping these vulnerable people. There can be little doubt that homeless autistic people should be one of the key issues for anyone interested in Male Psychology.

 

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 over 60 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 forthcoming 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).

 

References

Barry JA and Owens B (2019). From fetuses to boys to men: the impact of testosterone on male lifespan development, in Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (pp. 3-24). London: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

Brown, J. S., Sagar-Ouriaghli, I., & Sullivan, L. (2019). Help-Seeking Among Men for Mental Health Problems. In The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (pp. 397-415). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

Buhrich, N., Hodder, T., & Teesson, M. (2000). Lifetime prevalence of trauma among homeless people in Sydney. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(6), 963–966.

Butwicka, A., Langstrom, N., Larsson, H., Lundstrom, S., Serlachius, E., Almqvist, C., … Lichtenstein, P. (2017). Increased risk for substance use-related problems in autism spectrum disorders: a population-based cohort study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 47(1), 80-89.

Churchard, A., Ryder, M., Greenhill, A., & Mandy, W. (2019). The prevalence of autistic traits in a homeless population. Autism, 23(3), 665-676.

Combined Homelessness and Information Network. (2017). CHAIN annual report: June 2015. The Greater London Authority.

Duffy, J., & Hutchison, A. (2019). Working with Homeless Men in London: A Mental Health Service Perspective. In The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (pp. 533-556). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

Homeless Link (2015). Autism and Homelessness: Briefing for frontline staff. https://www.homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/site-attachments/Autism%20&%20HomelessnesOct%202015.pdf

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. (2017). Rough Sleeping Statistics, Autumn 2017, England. London: Author.

Shelter. (2016). Green book 50 years on: The reality of homelessness for families today. http://www.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1307361/GreenBook_-_A_report_on_homelessness.pdf.

St. Mungos. (2016). Stop the scandal: An investigation into mental health and rough sleeping. http://www.mungos.org/documents/7021/7021.pdf.

Torchalla, I., Strehlau, V., Li, K., Schuetz, C., & Krausz, M. (2012). The association between childhood maltreatment subtypes and current suicide risk among homeless men and women. Child Maltreatment, 17, 132–143.

van Wijngaarden-Cremers, P. (2019). Autism in Boys and Girls, Women and Men Throughout the Lifespan. In The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (pp. 309-330). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

 

Open post

Saving the next Steve

By Ben Akers, filmmaker

Kids are screaming. I’m completely skint and my body is achingly tired, but it’s all worth it. Why? Because I saved a life today.

5 years ago I lost a life. The life of my childhood best friend. Steve and I were like brothers. Born only 4 days apart, the decade from 11-21 were inseparable. There wasn’t one without the other.  But all that changed when we got older, got families, moved away. And on the 28th of May 2014 – Steve took his own life. And I was crushed.

A man every 2 hours is taking their own life in the UK.  But Steve wasn’t a statistic. He was a father, a son, a brother and friend.

For 20 years I’ve been an advertising creative. I sell things. And more recently I try to get people to think differently about things – call it behaviour change if you like.  So after a chat with JC (one of the founders of Movember) who told me that men of my age watch documentaries and sport, I thought What if I created a problem-solving documentary? What if I combined my skills and experience and try to help solve this problem?

So in December 2017 I began a journey. A journey of self recovery but one also trying to help men help themselves. And stop them taking their own lives. I began with a crowdfunder (raising just over £20K in the end) to create a documentary to save men from suicide.

In the 18 months that followed, I travelled up and down the country, interviewed 35 people, got over 50 hours of footage, and in the end crafted a feature length documentary.

The goal was to save one life. And we did that on the night of the premiere. A friend told me that when I asked him to do a video diary of his mental health, it forced him to open up and get help. He had written the letters to his wife and kids. He had made plans to kill himself. But me asking him to talk about his mental health made him stop. Made him reconsider and made him open up.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEp5ck-DYzI

And that’s been the amazing thing about this project. What I have learnt. I didn’t even know there was a Male Psychology Network. I didn’t know male psychology was different to female psychology. Off course it is. But I had never thought about it. And my interview with John Barry was enlightening. The way that men think. Why psychology is different. Why men might not go to therapy as much as women do.

It was one of the conversations, that got me thinking that this film had to be more than mental health awareness, it had to be mental health action.

So now, after a premiere in March and 24 screenings up and down the country, many at pubs – going to where the men are – I’ve created a very simple idea called Talk Club. Inspired by Andy’s Man Club and the CALM Best Man project – I thought What if we just help men talk to their mates?

What we do is simply ask men to score their feeling out of 10. You can’t have 7 – everyone says 7. Picking 6.9 or 7.1 is a decision, so that’s what we ask men to do, and then ask them to try to explain that number.

So that’s what we are doing. We show the film. Spark conversation and ask them to talk about their mental health, to take their mental fitness more seriously.

We also created a closed talking group on Facebook, which amazingly in 8 weeks has 715 members. And smaller, local face to face talking groups are popping up off that.

 

So what can you do?

1/ Join the men-only private Talking group https://m.facebook.com/groups/259185324880439

2/ Download the flyer:  https://jmp.sh/SmrlXLk (Print out double sided, fold in half 3 times) https://www.wetalkclub.com/

3/ Come to a screening of Steve: Stevedocumentary.com  The next two are at Brighton 23rd of July, and Bristol 15th July.

 

I can’t bring Steve back, but every day I can stop other families, other friends, other men feeling what I have felt, and save the next Steve.

 

About the author

Creative Director/Writer/Director Daddy of 3. Lover of ideas for good. Co-Founder of @MadeWith_ @GoodfestivalUK @TalkClubUK http://Stevedocumentary.com

 

Further information

Next screenings of Steve:

Brighton 23rd of July:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/steve-screening-platf9rm-hove-tickets-64240866160

Bristol 15th July:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bristolsouthville-screening-of-steve-tickets-63561285516

 

“Making of Steve”

Blog: https://stevethedocumentary.wordpress.com/

FB:             www.facebook.com/STEVEDOCUMENTARY

https://www.facebook.com/WeTalkClubUK/

Insta:          @STEVEDOCUMENTARY @Madewithltd @TalkClubUK

Twit:           @SteveDoco  + @benakers @Madewith_ @TalkClubUK

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

Men and yoga

by Dr Sunil Lad

 

Through a culmination of nature and nurture, men are often portrayed to be “strong”, competitive and aggressive, whilst this has had certain advantages from an evolutionary perspective it also has a shadow side. Often with the men that I work with in prison exploring emotions and experiencing sadness are seen as “weak”, there is often difficulty in accessing these emotions, a limited ability to describe and label them, and individuals can often be disconnected and dissociated from how these feel within the body. Displaying vulnerability such as crying is often seen as a weakness, but as human beings these are natural ways to respond to the world where situations that bring on rejection, abandonment, humiliation and unfairness  which are an inherent part of being human.

As a way to survive such overwhelming emotions they are often supressed by alcohol use, denial, minimisation, distraction, over- achievement to feel good, or emotions are bottled up and can lead to violence or suicide. Boys can often be ridiculed, shamed or punished for showing emotions such as fear, anger or sadness, and emotions are generally not accepted by many parts of society. Many men will often struggle to experience such emotions therefore having a safe space where they can talk about it can be difficult. Men may choose not to access talking therapy because talking about problems and emotions may not be seen as something that would be helpful (Holloway et al, 2018).

Yoga is an ancient philosophy that is being practiced across the world. Currently within the western world yoga is often seen and packaged through a fitness lens; in fact that’s how I first got started through the physical “asana” practice as a way to get fit and exercise my body, and then I found out that it’s a much deeper practice than merely moving the body and getting physically fitter. The way in which yoga is often perceived, especially for men, is that are they unable to get into the poses as they are not flexible in their bodies as women and not able to “do it”.  This perception is often created by images of people in bendy poses, predominately women, who have different body frames and structure to men.

Within my practice I started to be more mindful about my connection to my body and that when moving initially I was forcing myself to go into a pose. I started to become conscious of when I wasn’t able to get into a pose, if there were others around me, I felt embarrassed I wasn’t able to get into the pose I recognised judgemental thoughts I had and tightening of my muscles which made it more difficult to move and restricted my breath. However I started to learn that when I had a more inquisitive and curious mentality and grounded myself in the breath, I had calmed my nervous system which allowed me to relax and go deeper into the pose. My body relaxed and I was less distracted by my judgements.

I have reflected on how as men we are often socialised to push harder, be self- critical and not feel good enough. Also there is often a limited space where vulnerability and insecurity can be explored, because there is a fear that showing it could lead to ridicule and humiliation, this all is an embodied experience that can be explored through yoga.

Yoga can be a tool in which men can start to undo these negative and harsh messages they have received, by gaining greater awareness about themselves in terms of body and mind patterns. The practice of yoga can develop awareness, proprioception and interoception, which are likely to help practitioners to understand and feel safe with emotions. Thus this might have an improved effect on mental health in men, as yoga  becomes an accessible way to root yourself in the body and have an understanding of the self both on and then off the mat.

 

About the author

Dr Sunil Lad is a Counselling Psychologist working with men in prison with mental health difficulties, and a qualified yoga teacher. His chapter Of Compassion and Men: Using Compassion Focused Therapy in Working with Men appears in the new Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health  by Barry, J.A., Kingerlee, R., Seager, M., Sullivan, L. (Eds.). DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

Open post

It’s easier to blame men than to see men as victims

by Dr Tania Reynolds

A cursory glance through recent news articles surrounding gender suggests women are struggling in modern society, and uniformly have it worse than men. Indeed, there are many contexts where women are disadvantaged, such as the pattern of fewer female world leaders, CEOs, and full professors. At the top of the societal distribution, men are overrepresented, which is certainly worthy of attention and concern. However, if one were to take a careful look at the bottom of the societal distribution, they might be surprised to see men are also overrepresented. For example, compared to women, men are more likely to be homeless, suffer from substance abuse, commit suicide, drop out of high school, never attend college, be imprisoned, and even die 5 years sooner on average.

Why is it that the social discrepancies whereby men are disproportionately afflicted receive significantly less attention? A reader might espouse the argument, “well these are issues under men’s control”. Perhaps that is true, to some degree. However, there are some cases where these discrepancies are at least partially the result of active biases. For example, legal research demonstrates that men receive longer prison sentences than do women, even when they commit identical crimes (Mazella & Feingold, 1994; Mustard, 2001). Why then, do we fail to recognize these cases where men are suffering?

Researchers in cognitive moral psychology have discovered that when people evaluate situations in which harm occurs, they instinctively cast the involved parties into one of two roles: intentional perpetrator and suffering victim (Gray & Wegner, 2009). That is, the human mind naturally perceives moral actions through a dyadic template, such that we assume those involved are either the harm-inflicting agent or the harm-experiencing patient. Moreover, once we cast a target as a perpetrator, it is incredibly difficult to subsequently view them as a victim, and vice versa.

In our research, we tested the hypothesis that the application of this cognitive template might be biased by gender (Reynolds, Howard, Sjastad, Okimoto, Baumeister, Aquino, & Kim, 2019) Specifically, we predicted that people more readily place men in the role of perpetrator and women in the role of suffering victim. If so, this tendency might suggest it is challenging for us to perceive men as victims and respond compassionately to their suffering.

To test this hypothesis, we had participants evaluate situations involving workplace harm, such as a surgeon bullying their surgical trainee.  We manipulated whether we referred to the targets in the scenarios as either victim and perpetrator or more neutrally, “party A or B”. We asked participants to recall whether the harmed target was male or female, even though the scenario never mentioned this. Across the different scenarios, we found that people overwhelmingly assumed the harmed target was female, but especially when we labeled the targets as perpetrator/victim. This finding suggests we more easily place women in the victim role. Moreover, when participants assumed the harm target was female, they felt more warmly towards her and perceived her as more moral, compared to when they assumed the harmed target was male.

In another study, we had participants evaluate an ambiguous joke made in the workplace. This time, we manipulated the sex of both the employee making the off-colored joke and the recipient of the statement. Participants assumed a female employee who heard the joke experienced more pain than a male recipient of the identical statement.

Moreover, participants also shifted their perceptions of the employee making the joke. When a man made the joke, participants were more willing to punish him, less willing to forgive him, less willing to work with him, and less willing to nominate him for a leadership position, compared to a woman who made the same exact joke. These patterns suggest we not only more easily recognize harm to women, we also more strongly desire to punish men, a response typical to those placed in the perpetrator role.

We then wanted to explore whether this pattern holds for groups of men or women. We had participants evaluate a scenario where a managerial team needed to make the decision to fire a group of employees whose jobs were redundant. We manipulated whether those fired employees were male or female, but kept everything else identical. Participants assumed the fired female employees suffered more pain than the fired male employees, even though real world data suggests men who lose their job suffer worse outcomes (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz, Drapeau, 2008).

Moreover, participants also differentially judged the managerial team based on our manipulation. Managers who fired women were assumed to have inflicted more harm, to have made a more unfair decision, and to be less moral. This pattern suggests we not only more easily recognize female suffering, but also more harshly judge those who inflict suffering onto women than those who inflict suffering onto men.

Altogether, this body of findings indicates that our application of moral typecasting is biased by gender. We more readily place women in the victim role, which makes us more sensitized to their suffering. We also more readily place men into the perpetrator role, which makes us more inclined to punish and blame them.

This gender bias in moral typecasting has many important implications. It suggests that when we encounter men’s suffering, we will be less inclined to notice it, perceive it as unjust, or feel motivated to alleviate it.

Our findings may help explain the asymmetric discussion surrounding gender differences in social outcomes. It is cognitively easier for us to detect women’s suffering and respond with sympathy and aid. However, when we learn these statistics about the negative outcomes suffered by men, we are less inclined to view men as victims, and might instead, either overlook the suffering or just blame it on men themselves.

 

Dr Tania Reynolds will be giving a talk on this topic at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL, 21-22 June 2019.

About the author

Tania Reynolds received her PhD in Social Psychology from Florida State University under Dr. Roy Baumeister and Dr. Jon Maner. Her research examines how pressure to compete for social and romantic partners asymmetrically affects the competitive behaviors and well-being of men and women.

Through a joint appointment with the Gender Studies department, Reynolds offers courses on human sexuality and sex/gender differences. As a collaborative research team with Justin Garcia and Amanda Gesselman, Reynolds hopes to examine the dispositional predictors and physiological correlates of individuals’ romantic relationship experiences, as well as how these associations may differ across gender and sexual orientation.

 

References

Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2009). Moral typecasting: divergent perceptions of moral agents and moral patients. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology96, 505-520.

Mazzella, R., & Feingold, A. (1994). The effects of physical attractiveness, race, socioeconomic status, and gender of defendants and victims on judgments of mock jurors: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Applied Social Psychology24, 1315-1338.

Mustard, D. B. (2001). Racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in sentencing: Evidence from the US federal courts. The Journal of Law and Economics44, 285-314.

Reynolds, T., Howard, C., Sjastad, H., Okimoto, T., Baumeister, R. F., Aquino, K., & Kim, J. (invited revision). Man up and take it: Gender bias in moral typecasting.

Wang, J., Lesage, A., Schmitz, N., & Drapeau, A. (2008). The relationship between work stress and mental disorders in men and women: findings from a population-based study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health62, 42-47.

 

 

Open post

How do men deal with traumatic brain injury?

by Dr Ruth MacQueen & Dr Paul Fisher

Picture: famous brain injury patient, Phineas Gage.

contact: ruth.macqueen@nhs.net

 

Men are twice as likely to experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as women.  This suggests that aspects of masculinity, such as choosing risky jobs and sports, play an important role in how people acquire their brain injury. Research also suggests that masculine identity has an impact on how people manage the experience of illness.  Adjustment to traumatic brain injury can involve changes in cognitive, behavioural, emotional and physical functioning. Given the potential disruptive consequences of TBI, the day-to-day lived experience of being in the world can be, and often is, altered for the individual.

Our chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health summarises research which explores masculine identity in relation to how men experience these adjustments.  Individuals who have had a TBI can experience a changed sense of personal identity (Levack, Kayes, & Fadyl, 2010) and changes to the self tend to be viewed negatively in comparison to the pre-injury self (Carrol & Coetzer, 2011).  Identity as a man can be threatened by the changes in interactions and activity which can lead to a loss of traditional male roles such as being a provider, being strong, protecting others, having physical strength, and self-reliance (Addis & Mahalik, 2003;  Connell, 2005).  Roles which men have, for example within their occupation and relationships can therefore be lost or changed and men may face challenges in coping with this loss and adapting to the changing roles.  Masculine identity is therefore an important consideration for neuropsychological therapy and rehabilitation particularly because part of the process of rehabilitation concerns helping individuals with their sense of self.

Some evidence suggests that adherence to masculine ideals can be negatively associated with rehabilitation outcomes in TBI (Meyers, 2012).  Barriers to engaging in rehabilitation services may include that working with professionals is viewed as requiring help and therefore suggests that the individual lacks strength or self-sufficiency to be able to cope (MacQueen, Fisher and Williams 2018). Viewing the self as being reliant on others can lead to experiences of shame and the perception of the self as weak.  This can mean that developing therapeutic relationships may conflict with ideals of independence (Good et al., 2006; Sullivan, 2011).

However, aspects of masculine identity may also promote wellbeing in the context of adjustment to TBI for men. For example, there is evidence which suggests that adherence to dominant masculine ideals such as higher success, power and competition are associated with the perception of fewer barriers to community functioning (Good et al., 2006).  Similarly, Schopp et al. (2006) found that there was a positive effect on functional outcomes for men who adhered to ideals such as winning and seeking status and the authors suggest that therefore drawing on these values can promote positive outcomes after TBI.

It is important that gender identities are considered as part of rehabilitation and providing a gender-sensitive service can begin during initial discussions when men are referred to a service and should be considered throughout rehabilitation. In addition, given the higher prevalence of mental health problems in the TBI population (Seel et al., 2003) it seems particularly important to work with individuals in reducing the stigma of mental health problems after brain injury.   Within the context of masculine identity, the application of positive psychology constructs may be particularly beneficial.  Positive psychology has been applied within acquired brain injury (ABI) rehabilitation and these initial studies indicate that the application of positive psychotherapy may promote wellbeing following ABI (Andrewes, Walker, & O’Neill, 2014; Cullen et al., 2016).   The concepts of growth, strength and resilience within positive psychotherapy may particularly encourage flexibility in identity which may facilitate adjustment for men.

The implications arising from the research in relation to issues around engagement and outcomes in neuropsychological therapy and rehabilitation are further considered within my chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health.

Dr. Ruth MacQueen completed the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of East Anglia in 2016. Her doctoral thesis employed a

qualitative methodology to research men’s experiences of masculine identity following traumatic brain injury. She has presented her research as a poster

publication at the Neurological Rehabilitation Specialist Interest Group of the World Federation for Rehabilitation conference and published in

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. Since qualifying, Ruth has continued to work within neurorehabilitation in Bath, UK.

 

Dr. Paul Fisher is a Clinical Psychologist and Senior Clinical Lecturer with significant experience working clinically with people with neurological

impairments across a range of settings and as an academic and researcher. Paul has worked in the UK and Singapore. He has a long-standing interest

in issues of identity and identity change and adjustment which he uses within his clinical work and has been a focus for his research using qualitative

research methods. Paul currently works at the University of East Anglia in the Department of Clinical Psychology and in Norfolk and Suffolk NHS

Foundation Trust.

 

References

Addis, M. E., & Mahalik, J. R. (2003). Men, masculinity, and the contexts of help seeking. The American Psychologist, 58(1), 5–14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.1.5

Andrewes, H. E., Walker, V., & O’Neill, B. (2014). Exploring the use of positive psychology interventions in brain injury survivors with challenging behaviour. Brain Injury28(7), 965-971.

Carroll, E., & Coetzer, R. (2011). Identity, grief and self-awareness after traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 21(3), 289-305. doi: 10.1080/09602011.2011.555972

Connell, R. W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829–859. doi:10.1177/0891243205278639

Cullen, B., Pownall, J., Cummings, J., Baylan, S., Broomfield, N., Haig, C., … & Evans, J. J. (2016). Positive PsychoTherapy in ABI Rehab (PoPsTAR): A pilot randomised controlled trial. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 1-17.  doi:10.1080/09602011.2015.1131722

Good, G. E., Schopp, L. H., Thomson, D., Hathaway, S., Sanford-Martens, T., Mazurek, M. O., & Mintz, L. B. (2006). Masculine roles and rehabilitation outcomes among men recovering from serious injuries. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 7(3), 165.

Levack, W. M., Kayes, N. M., & Fadyl, J. K. (2010). Experience of recovery and outcome following traumatic brain injury: a metasynthesis of qualitative research. Disability and Rehabilitation 32(12), 986–999. doi:10.3109/09638281003775394

MacQueen, R., Fisher P., & Williams, D., (2018) A qualitative investigation of masculine identity after traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation doi: 10.1080/09602011.2018.1466714

Meyers, N. M. (2012). The effect of traditional masculine gender role adherence on community reintegration following traumatic brain injury in military veterans. (Doctoral Thesis) American University, Washington, D.C

Schopp, H., Good, E., Barker, B., Mazurek, O., & Hathaway, L. (2006). Masculine role adherence and outcomes among men with traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 20(11), 1155.

Seel, R. T., Kreutzer, J. S., Rosenthal, M., Hammond, F. M., Corrigan, J. D., & Black, K. (2003). Depression after traumatic brain injury: a National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Model Systems multicenter investigation. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 84(2), 177-184.

Sullivan, C., Gray, M., Williams, G., Green, D., & Hession, C. (2014). The use of real life activities in rehabilitation: The experience of young men with traumatic brain injuries from regional, rural and remote areas in Australia. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 46(5), 424–429. https://doi.org/10.2340/16501977-1788

 

 

 

 

Open post

Men are boxing their way back to mental fitness

An interview by Dr John Barry with boxing coach Paddy Benson of Birmingham’s Pat Benson Boxing Academy.

It’s a familiar story. A young rebellious man seems out of control, always getting into conflict and looking destined for prison. Somehow he finds out about the local boxing club. Maybe it’s his last chance, or maybe it’s just a challenge he won’t refuse. But one thing leads to another and he suddenly finds that he has got something that is more important in his life than getting into trouble. Somehow or other, boxing has saved him from wasting his life.

If the NHS clinical psychology or forensic psychology services could replicate this kind of success story they would quickly recognise it as a breakthrough treatment programme. In fact some people outside boxing are starting to recognise the mental health benefits of this activity, and it just so happens that an old-school boxing club in Birmingham is leading the way. When I found out a few months ago that something called the Mind-Fit programme had won a mental health prize, I tracked down Paddy Benson of the Pat Benson Boxing Academy as quick as I could to find out more:

Barry: Congratulations Paddy on getting a prize for your wellbeing programme. What are your thoughts on your programme, and on the impact of boxing on men’s mental health?

Benson: It started after we had a guy who was from a substance abuse background. He used to train a lot, but sometimes he would go missing. We knew when he went missing he was on a relapse. One day we started chatting with him, and he opened up and said he really valued the structure and routine of the boxing training, which is why he kept coming back. That’s what he was really looking for and that kept him on the right track, away from drugs. We realised that we hadn’t given him any special treatment, but the boxing environment and routine had helped him deal with drugs. In fact of course training is a natural high, a release of endorphins.

Within about 30 mins radius there are lots of charities where we are in Birmingham, so we talked to them and put together a basic mental health package. We think that men’s mental health is a taboo subject at present, but one that will explode soon.

We evolved this programme due to feedback. We try to get the best out of everyone. Our strategy is inclusive – it’s not just for the top half-percent of boxers to win national titles. The programme is one hour per week doing bags and pads in a traditional boxing club, and participants like being coached in this real environment.

We have some specialist mentor staff, we have a social group – basically getting men to talk – and the feedback has been fantastic. We’ve had a national sporting award, and started getting funding. This is social prescribing. These guys are going to their GP but don’t necessarily need a clinical psychologist. For some people who have been using drugs or homeless, just eating fresh fruit is a new thing. The routine is the main thing.

We have worked with Nottingham Trent for a case study, but more with Brunel. Street Games provided free mental health first aid. Some of the participants get back on the straight and narrow, become mentors themselves, and even go on to university.

Barry: Are other things like martial arts just as good, or is boxing special?

Benson: Getting fit and building trust is key. Anyone will feel better. And staying away from drugs. Maybe boxing is more old school so there is a special sort of traditional aura. Our trainers have been around. This does help build trust. It’s hard to explain, but over time participants start to talk. They even start to trust themselves more when they feel more confident and healthy.

Barry: Do you think gaining meaning in life is important?

Benson: Yes, if you have been homeless or on drugs you know you are on the wrong path. When they meet us they mostly right away want to get their lives back on track. Finding an identity and purpose in life is a real achievement. They also learn to help others and give something back.

[Interview ends].

Some of the findings of my research in male psychology are things that are fairly unsurprising to most people who haven’t been steeped in the ideology of gender studies. However in these strange days when traditional masculinity is misunderstood even by psychologists in the US and UK, finding ways to help men’s mental health can sometimes be best done outside of mainstream mental health services. Important understandings about gender aren’t yet part of the psychology syllabus, for example, that when distressed, women often want to talk about their feelings whereas men would rather fix their problems. With men more likely than women to kill themselves, but less likely to seek help from a therapist, it’s my prediction that rediscovering how men have, for generations, been taking care of their mental health might benefit modern psychology. Activities like boxing might not appeal to everyone, but a pilot study by Brunel found it worked for the 24 participants on Benson’s Mind-Fit programme. Without a doubt the merit of this approach is worth further investigation.

 

About Paddy Benson

Paddy Benson trains in the Pat Benson Boxing Academy, a club based Birmingham’s Irish Quarter – produced the likes of champion Matthew Macklin and is currently training future world class boxers. The Academy was created to honour legendary trainer from Mayo in Ireland, Pat Benson, after he was crowned BBC Unsung Hero 2010. Pat and his grandson Paddy, a University business graduate who has also boxed for England Youth, work together in the family run club. Paddy will be giving a short presentation at the Male Psychology Conference at University College London in June.

 

About John Barry

Dr John 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 over 60 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. He is co-founder of the Male Psychology Network, and co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is one of the authors of the new Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health  DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

John has blogged previously on the mental health benefits of boxing.

Open post

ADHD: see the positives and get the balance right

by Dr Bijal Chheda-Varma                            

According to the NHS, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The ADHD Institute says that 50-65% of patients with ADHD in childhood will continue with their symptoms into adulthood.

The chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health focuses on the prevalence manifestation of ADHD in men. The neuro-developmental nature of ADHD means that it will occur from birth in men and contribute towards complexities and difficulties in men’s mental wellbeing.

Recognising the symptoms and difficulties early in life and forming a realistic approach to managing these through adapted cognitive behaviour therapy techniques and lifestyle management is the focus of this chapter. The chapter offers insights into the backdrop of ADHD from its early origins with the famous case of “Fidgety Phil,” through to more recent information from neuroscience.

Currently our understanding of ADHD helps us to identify the three main subtypes of ADHD in individuals. First there is the inattentive subtype with difficulties of concentration, focus and organization. Then there is the hyperactive/impulsive subtype with restlessness, fidgeting, disruptive behaviours and impulse management difficulties. Thirdly there is the combined type, where an individual struggles with all of the aforementioned symptoms. Identifying ADHD through more subtle traits when obvious hyperactivity/impulsivity is not present is a challenge in clinical work. Individuals who present with only inattention traits and moderate difficulties often remain in the revolving door of treatments and clinics, until such time as more clarity of traits becomes apparent.

Psychopharmacological interventions are focussed on managing the neurochemical and and brain activation issues. Medication helps in executive functions in individuals by improving focus, attention and overall activation.

Adapted cognitive behaviour therapy based on behavioural interventions – in particular organizational and activity scheduling, problem solving, working on sleep routines and implementation of graded steps – has been the key focus on treatment for ADHD.

Would the world be better off without the existence of ADHD symptoms and traits? Hardly. Strip away ADHD and we may take away our evolutionary pattern of neurodiversity. The hyperactivity and impulsivity when channeled in the right manner offers healthy risk taking, ability to perform high energy and intensity tasks and a mind that can think outside the box when a problem arises.

Hyperfocus aids individuals to attain higher performance and success when channeled into careers, passions, hobbies and inventions. For the deficits of the executive functions in the brain, sociability, emotional quotient and charm is aplenty. ADHD symptoms are part of the rich tapestry of human character and, in measure and in context, can be enriching for the individual and the world they are part of.

 

About the author

Bijal Chheda-Varma is a CPsychol Chartered Psychologist (BPS), Practitioner Psychologist (HCPC Reg.) and CBT Therapist Founder and Director, Foundation for Clinical Interventions, London. She is the founder and director of the Foundation for Clinical Interventions (FFCI) which specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment/support for autism,Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and other neurodevelopmental and neurocognitive conditions. Dr. Chheda-Varma’s niche is in offering intensive, but goal-oriented and time-limited treatment and therapy. She uses evidence-based treatment models and CBT is her predominant therapy style in both individual and group therapy. She sees a wide spectrum of clinical and complex psychological conditions but specializes in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, OCD and eating disorders. After beginning her career as a lead Psychologist within a rehabilitation unit for addictions, Dr. Chheda-Varma went on to be the lead clinician for the Nightingale Hospital’s CBT team from June 2013 until June 2014. Currently, she practises at the Nightingale Hospital, The Blue Door Practice alongside her own private clinic.

Dr Chheda-Varma is running a workshop on this topic at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL in June 2019. You can sign up for a place on the workshop here.

Dr Chheda-Varma’s chapter Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Case Study and Exploration of Causes and Interventions, is in the new The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health, edited by Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). London: Palgrave Macmillan IBSN 978-3-030-04384-1   DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

 

Open post

Follow the data, ignore socio-political agendas, and enjoy the scientific journey.

by Nathan Hook, PhD candidate.

[This was this first runner-up in the competition for a free ticket to the Male Psychology Conference.

The question Nathan Hook addressed was What first got you interested in the psychology of men and boys? ]

 

At an early phase in my life I was a pupil in a boys-only grammar school, and in the evenings went to a boys-only Scout group and a tabletop historical wargames group that attracted only had men and older boys interested in strategy. After a degree in a different subject at a conventional university, I was drawn to psychology and later in life was an Open University Psychology student. Due to the huge gender imbalance in psychology I was sometimes the sole male learner in a tutorial class. These very different learning environments with contrasting gender balance of learners highlighted to me different classroom behaviour styles – some people engage in learning by combative debate, challenging what is presented as a way to digest and absorb ideas actively.

When I conducted my student experiments at Open University summer schools, one simple addition I proposed regardless of what the experiment was – digit span recall of abstract symbols in my case – was to note the participant’s gender. This then gave the option to split the data on this and do a gender comparison test, as an easy way to add secondary analysis to undergraduate coursework. It was these experiences that lay the seeds for my interest in the psychology of men as a distinct group.

In my working life as a data analyst for Ofsted I came to see how boys are underachieving in assessments across education, from age five up to university admissions. Meanwhile my interest in male psychology flowered later in my academic life, as a part-time distance PhD student doing experiments in how readers/players identify with fictional characters. Starting with a hypothesis that people would identify more strongly with characters with the same identities as themselves, I designed an experiment to test if this was true for the identity of gender. This design meant I needed to split male and female participants to see if they identified more with their own-gender of character, but I wasn’t expecting a gender difference in results.

The surprise finding was that females did identify more with a female character than a male character (‘in-group bias’), but males had no such bias; I had unexpectedly discovered a gender difference. I expanded my literature review to and found a similar pattern of female own-gender bias but no male own-gender bias had been discovered experimentally in remembering faces, with a visual processing domain-specific explanation offered. Having found the same gender difference in a completely different field suggests there may be a deeper underlying mechanism.

I had never intended to look at gender differences when I started my PhD research, but I followed where the data led. My next step was to test for this gender difference in identification with a different identity, and I settled on religion as another strongly held identify for many people. This time I found evidence of an in-group bias for males, but no evidence of an in-group bias for females. Once again, a gender difference in identification.

My current conceptual model for explaining these results is that in-group bias occurs for identities people invest in. We all have characteristics we don’t meaningfully identify with; most people don’t strongly identify as ‘blue eyed’ or ‘brown eyed’ (unless pushed to by being in a blue eyes-brown eyes experiment). Males don’t invest so strongly in their gender identity so don’t display own-gender bias, but Christian males and males of ‘no religion’ do invest strongly enough in their religious identity so display religious in-group bias. I’m using ‘group’ in this context to mean ‘shared identity,’ not limited only to social grouping.

While there is a cognitive benefit in judgement not being clouded by in-group bias, not investing in gender identity would also imply less ability to generate self-esteem from enacting that easily accessible identity, leaving men at higher risk from depression (lack of self-esteem) when unable to fulfil their other identities. This might explain why depression and by extension suicide is more common in men – by not investing in gender, they lack one major relatively easy and secure source of self-esteem.

My interest in the psychology of men then comes not from being drawn to certain constructions or socio-political agenda, but from applying the scientific experimental model of formulating testable hypotheses and following the results where they led, foreshadowed by my earlier life experiences.

 

About the author

Nathan Hook is a British Social Psychologist who trained with The Open University, UK and is a current distance Ph.D. student at the University of Tampere, Finland. His research interests include role playing in games and how the psychology of players can be changed by ludic experience. Alongside this, he also designs and publishes board and card games, and has a published a series of game-like psychodrama scenarios under The Green Book series. He currently works for Ofsted, the education inspectorate for England. His chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health, May the force of gender be with you: Identity, Identification and “Own-Gender Bias”,  is one of the most downloaded of the 32 chapters in this volume ( DOI10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1 ).

 

 

Open post

What is the biggest challenge to improving the wellbeing of men and boys?

by Richard Elliott.

[This blog was the winning entry to our competition for a free ticket to Saturday of the Male Psychology Conference 2019. We posed the question ‘What do you see as the biggest challenge to improving the wellbeing of men and boys?’ and this was the winning response].

What is the biggest challenge to improving the wellbeing of men and boys? In a word, gynocentrism: the innate predisposition towards the protection and preservation of women and girls, the limiting and unique source of our species’ biological success.

Men are essential and equally unique, but vastly less limited as seed for the source. This renders them less valuable to the point that they are more readily disposable. When humans make their Sophie’s Choice, they save their daughters. Under the conditions of competing priorities, we are encoded with an algorithm that defaults to the preservation of the female or, under intense environmental pressure, perish.

This is amply illustrated in Asimov’s backstory to I Robot, where the maverick male cop was saved in statistical preference to a young girl by a non-human not programmed to make an evolutionary-scale calculation, but an immediate one. Without such a deep-running programme, Bowie’s Saviour Machine might send an equal number of men and women into the abyss to defend the tribe from predacious chaos, but with that ancient, instinctual, visceral wisdom factored in, it would only be strong young men sent to risk damage and death; its logic incontrovertible. And it has been this way for at least six million years, if not twenty or more.

Behind the apparent patriarchy lies another force. In one of the largest mammals on Earth, killer whales, this matriarchy is observable as the post-menopausal female, in the three dimensions of the deep, high and to the rear of the whale pod, navigating and supervising. In the centre swim the pups surrounded by their young mothers, and around them their parents with the males towards the edges. Front and centre, and darting all around, are the childless and virile young males, scarred from barracuda attack.

If one removes the abstract human notions of power, money and ownership, humans have a dual bi-sexual hierarchy, each hemisphere with its own modus operandi and specialization necessarily and inextricable bound together to drive the whole helix forward through time. Our nursing homes are full of elderly widows, the remaining survivors of their cohort.

The data are clear that it is testosterone in its many manifestations that shortens male life expectancy through a proclivity for high-risk, high reward, lower agreeableness strategies as juxtaposed against the risk-averse, higher-agreeableness, maternal, female strategy. The secondary relative value of male wellbeing is the stumbling block to improving it. Resources are finite; need is irrefutable; perceived need is infinite; there’s always room for improvement. In cases of acute illness and trauma, it demands a strict protocol ensuring the objective assessment of clinical need to determine which patient is a priority over which other. With chronic, sub-clinical need and lower-impact malaise, the vital signs are not so clear and are more subject to cultural, including political, pressure.

I spent some time with an ambulance operator, the survivor of a suicide attempt. He taught me that when you attend the scene of a multi-vehicle incident on a motorway, don’t pay immediate attention to those screaming for help. Instead, seek out the quiet ones slowly turning white. They are the ones in real trouble. And an acoustics engineer taught me that the brain compresses sound for processing by attenuating to the loudest sound at any given moment. On average, women experience more psychological distress and discomfort than men, and complain about it more verbally. The foundation of all social health and care policy, and of the predominate culture, therefore, is to attend more to the female scream. In competition for human, financial, healthcare and emotional support resources, women win.

This genetic preference expressed both personally and politically lies so deep it includes many males’ intrinsic sense of relative worthlessness, particularly without work, family or religion. It is embedded in the training centres of our social care, social science, and education and media institutions, and is fundamental to many our guiding myths and metanarratives.

This is not about apportioning blame, but an attempt to describe and explain. Until we learn to fully apply abstract human constructs like equality, fairness and equal value to the disbursement of our finite resources, empathies towards, and support efforts for, the male of the species, gynocentrism will remain the biggest challenge to improving the wellbeing of men and boys.

 

About the author

After an earlier career in engineering, Richard Elliott switched to psychology in the late 1980s graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Sociology from Uni. of Bath in 1992 with a dissertation on research conducted in a forensic setting. From there he moved to Avon Probation, then NACRO, the NHS and local government where he worked as a clinical auditor and commission manager. Having taken an MA in Professional Writing with Uni of Falmouth, he is soon to embark on an MSc in Biological Anthropology at Canterbury. He’s long taken a keen interest in men’s issues and was the UK promoter of Cassie Jaye’s Red Pill documentary, funding the premiere in London and 7 other cinema screenings around the country.

 

 

Open post

Book review. Updating timeless advice for fathers: Owen Connolly’s ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’

Review of Owen Connolly’s book ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – from Father to Dad’.

by Dr John Barry

In his book The Boy Crisis, Warren Farrell warned us about the dangers of ‘dad deprivation’. This is the phenomenon of boys who drop out of highschool, become unemployed, prone to imprisonment. Almost every mass shooter since Columbine has been a boy who grew up with minimal or no father involvement. So what has happened to fatherhood? Masculinity is often devalued (e.g. the recent controversial APA guidelines) and dads are portrayed as bumbling fools in the media.

Against this backdrop of boys who desperately need dads, and men who feel disenfranchised from the fathering role, what is a man to do? Well, consultant psychologist Owen Connolly may have some answers in his book ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – from Father to Dad’.

In a slim volume that avoids unecessary jargon, Connolly gives practical advice to men in a way that answers questions to the everyday problems of parenting. The giants on whose shoulders we stand are those generations of men who have lived before us, and through their struggles and survival have passed on instincts we can tune in to in order to sense that we are doing the right thing for our children. So a lot of the advice is about tuning into our own feelings and needs as well as those of our children and spouse. But it’s not all touchy – feely. For example, there is the Top 10 Discipline Tips which offers practical ways of dealing with your child when they are being unruly.

Connolly recognises that we all have strengths and weaknesses. He asks men to recognise this, and to play to their strengths. He understands that when men are distressed, they often want a practical step-by-step approach to solutions, so the simple Q&A format adopted in this book makes perfect sense, as is the practical advice.

An example of the Q&A format is the question: ‘Does a man’s childhood affect the way in which he will parent his own children?’ The advice given is: “When each of us reaches 16 or 17, we become our own person, and after that it’s important for all of us to have a look at our lives and value who we are and shed many of the labels that were put upon us. We have to start looking at the positive aspects of ourselves” (Connolly 2006, p. 14). This is based on the idea that if we don’t learn to love ourselves, our negativity will be a disadvantage to anyone around us. Such advice fits in very well with modern ideas around positive masculinity, and the book has many examples of timeless good advice.

The book has four sections: Men & Women, Parenting Small Children, The Teenager, and Parenting Today. There is also a workbook section at the back, with some questionnaires, as an aid to self-reflection and development. These add to the overall user-friendly feel of the book. Those who like an index at the back of the book and references supporting every single statement will feel a bit lost at times, but for those who simply want solid advice, such academic niceties are not needed.

One of the take-home messages of this book is ‘any man can be a father, but not everyone can be a dad’. The aim of this book is to help men to connect with parts of themselves that are beyond modern fads about masculinity, and understand how to be a dad.

 

Connolly, O. (2006). ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – from Father to Dad’. Dundrum: Nurture Press.

To purchase this book please email info@counsellor.ie 

 

About Owen Connolly

Owen Connolly is a consultant psychologist and marriage and family therapist in private practice in Dublin. As well as “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – From Father to Dad”, he is co-author of the book “Parenting for the Millennium”, a best-selling book on childcare. He completed his training in the UK, Ireland, and the USA. He lectures in childcare and parenting, and is Chairman of the Nurture Institute of Further Education for Parents, a not-for-profit organisation which runs parenting courses and day-long seminars on fatherhood throughout the greater Dublin area.

Owen is running a workshop on the subject of ‘fatherhood and being a good dad’ at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL in June 2019.

 

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