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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.

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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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Is our attitude to men based on substandard research?

Professor Guy Madison & Therese Söderlund

Much of our attitude towards men comes from high profile feminist and Gender Studies scholars in academia. There is a strong association between the theorizing amongst such academics and the ideologies expressed in public debate. In fact, it is often the same individuals who write op-eds, scholarly papers, and pamphlets, and engage in political activism. It is only the type of platform that varies. Much of the ideas about male privilege, quotas, “rape culture”, and the patriarchy, for example, began in academic departments. But what is the scientific quality of publications from the world of gender studies?

We were compelled to investigate the quality of gender studies publications after some alluring lectures given at Umeå University, arguing that Gender Studies (GS) outperforms the old-fashioned, bigoted, and boring positivist methods. GS, it was argued, is an alternative and superior kind of science.

This aroused our interest, so we compiled a database of all GS publications we could find in a certain time frame, written by scholars active in Sweden. This Swedish Gender Studies List (SGSL) contains 12,414 cases, and has to date been used in three studies, all published in the journal Scientometrics (Söderlund & Madison, 2015; 2017; Madison & Söderlund, 2018). As they are already reported in detail, we provide only a brief summary of selected results here.

  • The 2015 study found that the annual growth rate of GS publications was greater than for research in general. In the period 2000 to 2010, GS publications from Sweden increased ~12% per year and ~7% internationally, while other research both in Sweden and internationally grew ~3-7%.
  • GS articles are substantially more often book chapters, dissertations, and conference contributions, and less often peer-reviewed journal articles (~20% of GS and 70% on non-GS publications).
  • Overall, non-GS articles had 2-3 times more citations than GS articles, and ~90% have 3 citations or more compared to only ~28% of GS articles.
  • 50% of GS journals were not even indexed in Thomson’s Journal Citation Reports, and the bulk of the remaining journals’  had an impact factor of less than half that of the average for non-GS journals (~1.0, as compared to ~2.0).
  • The 2016 and 2018 studies were based on ~2,800 statements culled from 36 journal articles with more and less gender perspective, and found significantly higher proportions of biased and normative statements in GS articles, and lower proportions of statements about biology/genetics and individual/group differences, than in non-GS articles. Consistent with this, non-GS articles had significantly lower proportions of statements about environment/culture and societal institutions.
  • The 2018 study found that GS texts were more abstract, less empirical, and focussed to a greater extent on societal factors. The proportion of statement of fact was 82% for GS articles but 48% for non-GS articles. Correlations were mentioned as a relationship between variables in 10% of GS statements and 37% of non-GS statements, but there was no difference in the proportion of causal relations (~5% for both GS and non-SG).
  • GS articles had less mention of limitations and earlier theories, results, and research in general, and had less support for their statements in terms of arguments or references.
  • In conclusion, GS articles appear to focus on communicating examples of different experiences and viewpoints of certain groups of people, rather than comprehensive models of the real world.

It is quite unusual that scholars comment on each other’s articles in print, but our 2015 article was challenged by ten pages listing alleged errors, asserting that it “falls well short of adequate good practice”, that we “distort” the conceptual framework, are “unreflecting”, and “lack…understanding” and ”…knowledge” (Lundgren, Shildrick, & Lawrence, 2015). We were, however, unable to find any argument as to how the many but relatively minor concerns listed might, separately or taken together, challenge the main result that more gender perspective was associated with lower scientific quality. The implication was not lost upon us that only gender studies scholars can be trusted to criticize gender studies publications (Madison & Söderlund, 2016).

From an epistemological perspective it is interesting and potentially illuminating that GS scholars find it worthwhile to launch arrows that so clearly miss the mark. The data are in. We are just saying what they look like. A comment to our 2018 article was just published (Lykke, 2018), again with a long list of grievances about definitions of concepts and our lack of competence. In essence, however, both comments argue that the differences we document are expected, and are therefore not valid critique. Maybe so, but that does not refute our argument that this field could achieve a greater impact if those differences were reduced.

Surely, it stands to reason that any communication would be more useful as a source of knowledge and guide for action and change if its scientific quality were higher? Is it not obvious that such quality is associated with more, rather than less, data, reliability, validity, non-bias, self-criticism, and most other quality indicators addressed in our studies, the very same indicators that scientific journals in general apply as criteria for peer-review? (Although perhaps not all journals: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Grievance_Studies%22_affair).

We welcome the debate, and look forward to hear representatives of GS develop their arguments for why these criteria are undesirable for, or do not apply to, their field.

About the authors

Guy Madison is a professor of Psychology at Umeå University (since 2011) and holds a PhD from Uppsala University (2001). He has authored some 150 scientific papers, including five book chapters and about 100 peer-reviewed journal articles across diverse fields of study. His main areas of research are human timing modelling, music psychology, intelligence, personality, and individual differences, to a large extent employing an evolutionary perspective and behavioural genetic methods. He mainly teaches behavioural genetics and advanced level scientific methodology. See his publications and research projects at ResearchGate, Loop, or https://www.umu.se/en/staff/guy-madison/

Therese Söderlund has Master’s degrees in Psychology and in Worklife and Health, and Bachelor’s degrees in Swedish and English. She has been employed as a researcher and project assistant at the Department of Psychology at Umeå University since 2009.

 

References

Lundgren, S., Shildrick, M., & Lawrence, D. (2015). Rethinking bibliometric data concerning gender studies: a response to Söderlund and Madison. Scientometrics, 105, 1389-1398.

Lykke, N. (2018). Can’t bibliometric analysts do better? How quality assessment without field expertise does not work. Scientometrics, 117, 655-666.

Madison, G. & Söderlund, T. (2016). Can gender studies be studied? Reply to comments on Söderlund and Madison. Scientometrics, 108, 329-335.

Madison, G. & Söderlund, T. (2018). Comparisons of content and scientific quality indicators across populations of peer-reviewed journal articles with more or less gender perspective: Gender studies can do better. Scientometrics, 115, 1161-1183.

Söderlund, T. & Madison, G. (2015). Characteristics of gender studies publications: a bibliometric analysis based on a Swedish population database. Scientometrics, 105, 1347-1387.

Söderlund, T. & Madison, G. (2017). Objectivity and realms of explanation in academic journal articles concerning sex/gender: a comparison of Gender studies and the other social sciences. Scientometrics, 112, 1093-1109.

 

 

 

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What was missing from the BBC Panorama exploration of domestic violence

by Dr Elizabeth A. Bates

Any mainstream and popular TV programme that highlights the issue of domestic violence is welcome.   Domestic violence is a significant social issue that has significant physical and mental health impacts for the men, women and children involved. That being said, when programmes highlight the issue but continue to perpetuate stereotypes and myths about the gendered nature of domestic violence, then it is likely to have some adverse effects.

BBC’s Panorama on Monday night raised the question about whether violent men can change, and explored the use and effectiveness of perpetrator programmes in changing behaviour. It was thought provoking and interesting, but to me, there were some significant omissions of information that would have contributed to the discussion.

As highlighted in the programme, there are issues with our understanding of how effective perpetrator programmes can be in changing behaviour. These issues include a lack of long-term follow ups, a lack of independent evaluations and a lack of evidence informed practice (see Bates, Graham-Kevan, Bolam & Thornton, 2017 for a full discussion). Within the Panorama programme one non-gendered perpetrator programme was presented, but there was a noticeable lack of discussion on the current theoretical models that underpin the majority of other perpetrator programmes that are accredited and funded within the UK.

The Duluth model was established in the United States in 1981 as an intervention with a curriculum developed by activists within the battered women’s movement and five battered women (Pence & Paymar, 1993). They believed that domestic violence was caused by men’s patriarchal ideology and beliefs about male privilege, as well as women’s lack of power and equality.  Research has been consistent in demonstrating the widespread use of this model whilst also indicating a lack of effectiveness of this programme. It is still influential in policy and practice within the UK, US and Canada, despite a wealth of literature that demonstrates its lack of success in changing behaviour, and its ignorance to other factors that are predictive of domestic violence perpetration (e.g., adverse childhood experiences), as well as the prevalence of bidirectional/mutual abuse.

The lack of evidence-based practice in the area of domestic violence is almost unique. The Duluth model has a noticeable “immunity” from needing to answer to any external empirical evaluation (Corvo, Dutton & Chen, 2008; p.112).  Over ten years ago, Dutton (2006) reviewed both the model’s lack of efficacy and the wealth of evidence contradicting its feminist foundations, concluding that its continued use is impeding effective treatment and judicial responses.  Despite the weight of evidence, the Duluth model continues to be influential now.

Whilst in the opening scenes of the Panorama programme the narrator is heard talking about the number of women and men who experience domestic violence, this is the only real mention of the issue of male victims, and there is indeed no discussion of violence by women at all.   The impact of not including female perpetrators and male victims in this narrative is two-fold; it impacts firstly on men who are experiencing abuse, and creates more barriers to their help-seeking. Men often do not disclose their own victimisation, and in part this could be seen to be impacted by more general issues men have help-seeking related to the construction of the male gender role. However beyond that, other issues that impact help-seeking include the fact that men often assume they simply cannot be victims of domestic violence, because they don’t have a concept of men as being victims of violence from women. In awareness raising campaigns, in the media, and in general societal narratives, domestic violence is discussed as overwhelmingly an issue of men’s violence towards women, creating the image that only women are victims. Services and support organisations often are perceived to be either not appropriate for men or commonly not available. Furthermore, where men have disclosed their victimisation they have often experienced humiliation through being laughed at, blamed and accused of causing the violence, accused of being the perpetrator, or told to “man up” and handle it.  Perceptions of the general public are important and impactful; the stigma associated with being a male victim of domestic violence can be really damaging.  ManKind made a video to highlight just how different people’s perceptions are, by comparing the reactions to a male and female victim – see the video here.

A second issue with not including female perpetrators in this narrative is that it negatively impacts on women who are violent and are left with few options for getting help and support in changing their behaviour.  The academic literature demonstrates there are significant similarities in the factors that predict men’s and women’s violence, and these can include trauma and adverse childhood experiences, attachment issues, personality traits and disorders and many other issues.  BBC’s Panorama failed to highlight that there are abusive women who do not currently have access to intervention that could help their behaviour change.  In part this could be attributed to the fact these women do not come into contact with the criminal justice system because men often don’t report women’s violence, women’s violence is not always taken seriously, or the rigid dichotomy of having to assign perpetrator and victim labels in situations where there is bidirectional violence.

Moving away from a one-size-fits-all, gendered approach would not only allow intervention to be matched to risk and need, but it would create opportunities to develop evidence-based programmes that can be used with all perpetrators including men and women in opposite-sex relationships and members of the LGBTQ+ population.  With the increased evidence base detailing both women’s perpetration and the prevalence of bidirectional IPV, there is a need to work with perpetrator and victim groups across the gender and sexuality spectrums to ensure we are developing interventions that are inclusive and effective.  This must then be reflected in the narrative we construct in the media, in order to start the process of change in how we recognise and support those impacted by domestic violence. The Panorama programme last night reflects a lost opportunity to make a positive step forward in addressing our outdated stereotypes about domestic violence.

About the author

Dr Elizabeth Bates is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Cumbria and a Chartered Psychologist. Her research explores men’s experiences of domestic violence including barriers to help-seeking and post-separation recovery. Dr Bates is also a trustee with the male victims charity ManKind Initiative.

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Workplace mental health schemes must address men’s needs

by Dr Joe MacDonagh

Anything that moves us toward a greater understanding of mental health is to be welcomed. Recently, the Heads Together organisation has partnered with a number of other groups to develop the Mental Health at Work site (www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk).

There are many resources on this site and it is a good start towards what Heads Together call “Changing the conversation and tackling the stigma around mental health”. We know that job satisfaction is a major factor in men’s wellbeing (Barry and Daubney, 2017), but how much do programmes such as  the Mental Health at Work site take men’s needs into account, especially the mental health needs of working class men?

We know that not all programmes aimed at supporting mental health at work are equally effective for men and women. For example, Wright and McLeod (2016) found that when counselling was provided in an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), only women continued to benefit in the long term, suggesting that men and women may differently experience and benefit from mental health interventions.

Men tend to be the workers in heavy industry and jobs requiring the most hard physical labour, and women are more likely to gravitate to more people-orientated work. How might the gender difference in job choice be relevant to mental health? Mental health problems can lead to poor performance, absenteeism, workers being fired and even workplace accidents and deaths. As I outlined at the 2018 Male Psychology Conference in University College London, workplace deaths are highly skewed towards men (MacDonagh, 2018). This is partly attributable to men doing more dangerous jobs, but it is perhaps also attributable to EAPs not successfully addressing men’s particular perspectives and needs in regards their mental health (Wright and McLeod, 2016).

Men often invest a great deal of themselves in their work, and in the importance of doing a good job. While perhaps there may be a need to balance this with family responsibilities, we should consider that it might be best if workplace mental health programmes respond to the way men actually are, not how we think they should be. Unemployment is more predictive of suicide risk in men than women, which suggests that extra care should be taken in EAPs for men who have concerns about unemployment. As we know, suicide figures are grossly distorted towards men, usually putting them at about 75% of all people dying by suicide.

Men can be relatively poor at reaching out for help, but services provided for them need be presented – in terms of marketing channels used – and operated according to how men typically talk, behave and act. If we want to reduce the number of direct and indirect workplace deaths, which may be due to poor risk decision-making caused by mental illness, stress and untreated physical ailments, then we have to provide programmes which attend to the particular needs of men, and women too. More research is needed on how to achieve more effective gender sensitivity in  EAPs.

Since in general men tend to prefer a solution-focused step by step approach and women tend to prefer to talk about their feelings (Holloway et al, 2018), this should inform the real-life and hypothesised examples provided, both in text and in acted out role play examples in online videos. It is important to provide something concrete, particularly for men, so that those who have not had mental health problems previously can see, and thus understand, what it is like to experience those problems. Finally, there could be more video testimonies of both men and women (the more high profile the better, as people respond positively to well regarded celebrity or high status role models) talking about how they came through their mental health problems and how they maintain their mental health now.

While I found much good material on the Mental Health at Work site, I felt that it could be even better if it was more designed to take gender differences in mental health and functioning at work into account. The steps towards recognising their problem (e.g. through online self-administered tests), case studies (going from experience through diagnosis to recovery) and to how to access mental health services, can all be improved by adapting future versions of the Mental Health at Work site to the different needs often seen in men and women.

 

About the author

Dr Joe MacDonagh is a Chartered Psychologist, a Chartered Scientist and is a former President of the Psychological Society of Ireland – the professional body for psychologists in Ireland. He is also a former Chair of the Irish Academy of Management and is currently Honorary Secretary of the History and Philosophy of Psychology section of the British Psychological Society.

 

References

Barry, J. & Daubney, M. (2017). The Harry’s Masculinity Report.

Holloway K, Seager M, Barry JA (2018). Are clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors overlooking the needs of their male clients? Clinical Psychology Forum, July 2018.

MacDonagh, J. (2018). Is there a workplace “mental ill health gap”?: Examining men’s occupational mental health status. 5th annual Male Psychology Conference, University College London.

Wright, K.J.R. & McLeod, J. (2016). Gender difference in the long-term outcome of brief therapy for employees. New Male Studies: An International Journal, 5, 2, 88-110

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The Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF) takes a dim view of the male gender

by Martin Seager, Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

Many psychologists question the wisdom of the DSM diagnostic system, and would like to see it replaced or modified to something more ‘human’. The fact that the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF) is an alternative model makes it immediately appealing to some, but closer inspection reveals that the PTMF contains within it a highly questionable view of the male gender.

The PTMF is a vast document of 400 pages with the grand aim of replacing a psychiatric categorisation system for mental health with an equivalent psycho-social system. It is written using a narrow band of evidence by a small clique of clinical psychologists who don’t speak for many others even among our own profession. One problem with the PTMF is that it is emotionally driven by a (perhaps understandable) resentment of psychiatric culture.

However taking an anti-psychiatric stance can too easily become an anti-biology / pro social constructionist stance, therefore becoming naive in relation to the biological and embodied aspects of the human condition. In essence we are splitting mind from body and simply swapping biological determinism for social determinism.  Leaving out the “bio” in “bio-psycho-social” is no better than leaving out the “psycho-social”.

In no area of human science is naïve social constructionism more dangerous and misleading than in the field of human sex and gender.  Through such a constructionist lens, the evolution of human beings as a mammalian species becomes totally and arrogantly disregarded. Biological sex is presumed to have no direct bearing on psychological gender. Body and mind are naively split.

In the PTMF there are 3 pages devoted to men and masculinity. Nestled in a 400 page document, these 3 pages might be easily overlooked, but they represent a sad indictment of current post-feminist attitudes to the male gender based on untested political theories and prejudices rather than empirical bio-psycho-social science and empathic humanity. For a profession that claims to be rooted in values of science and compassion for human suffering, these unexamined and lazy prejudices towards the male gender represent a complete failure to meet core standards. In essence, the PTMF takes a judgmental and a negative stance towards the male gender. All psychologists, therapists and counsellors should know that being “judgmental” or “negative” is the worst starting point for helping any group of people and can only undermine empathy and scientific understanding.

The primary presumption made by the PTMF is that being of the male gender somehow confers a “dominant” status. This vague notion of male power is simply accepted without proper definition, self-reflection or question. In a framework that is all about “power” and “threat”, the implication here then is clear that men are presumed to be more “powerful and threatening” than women. Nowhere, however, in a supposedly serious scientific document, is the concept of power adequately defined or measured. The idea of female power within certain domains of life (e.g. over children, education and family life) is considered a form of oppression, and the equivalent idea of male vulnerability or disadvantage (e.g. suicide, deaths at work, reduced life expectancy) register little sympathy. Substantial evidence (e.g. relating to dangerous situations in war and peace time) showing that men are generally protective of women and children (to the point of self-sacrifice) is completely ignored. Ignoring male protective behaviour or reframing it as “dominant” represents a failure of science. Equally, ignoring the evidence of high levels of female domestic and interpersonal violence towards males or downplaying it as “defensive” can hardly be considered a serious and objective scientific approach.

The PTMF notes the relationship between male gender and suicide but does not even consider this as possible evidence against its own theory of male dominance. Instead the tragic male suicide statistics are twisted to fit the assumption. According to the PTMF, men must be killing themselves because of their own “hegemonic” masculinity which entails a pathological need for power and control.  Rather than re-designing research and therapy to be more male-friendly, therefore, the implication of the PTMF is that men need to change their masculinity to express their emotions differently to fit the gender neutral or perhaps “feminised” therapies that already exist. The PTMF also notes the link between unemployment and male suicide but again the implication is not that we must help men with employment issues (thus showing empathy) but that men must learn to be less dependent on work as part of their masculine identity (thus showing judgmentalism).

All in all, the PTMF is unashamedly biased and a recipe for misunderstanding and negatively judging the male gender. For a document that claims to represent a breakthrough in anti-psychiatric and empathic psychological thinking this is rather ironic. This document offers no proper evidence or balance. It offers nothing practical that will help vulnerable men and boys and a lot that will reinforce or exacerbate their problems through prejudice and bad science.

 

About the author

Martin is a consultant clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, currently working with “Change, Grow, Live”. He is a lecturer, author, campaigner, and broadcaster. He worked in the NHS for 30 years, becoming head of psychological services in two mental health Trusts. He has advised government and has regularly broadcast with the BBC on mental health issues.  He is co-founder of the Male Psychology Network, and was the original proponent of the Male Psychology Section of the BPS. He was branch consultant to the Central London Samaritans for over 10 years and has also been an adviser to the College of Medicine.

 

[Reference. The material about masculinity is in pages 124-8 of the long version of the Power Threat Meaning Framework ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are men being discriminated against in the science workplace?

by Dr John Barry

Many people today presume that women are discriminated against in the workplace in various ways. This is not surprising given the steady stream of information from the gender equality industry appearing to support this view. However the reality today is that gender equality schemes that promote women’s careers in science related jobs, and other fields, are the norm.

For example, when it started in the UK in 2005, Athena SWAN was concerned only with promoting the careers of women in science, technology and engineering careers (STE). It then went on to include mathematics (STEM), medicine (STEMM) and now covers the entire range of academic subjects, and is extending internationally. With this in mind it seems a bit harsh that “a senior scientist at CERN has been suspended after suggesting female physicists were given jobs based on their gender”.

The reality is that, at least in recent years, women have never had it so good when it comes to getting jobs in the STEM workplace. What is the evidence for this? Well, there is the excellent paper produced by Ceci and colleagues at Cornell University. Published in the highest ranking psychology journal that I know of (impact factor of 19.228), it is 67 pages exploring a whole range of questions about the position of women in academia – from explanations for innate abilities based on prenatal testosterone levels, to whether better male networks explain male’s higher rate of publication. They conclude that: “…invitations to interview for tenure-track positions in math-intensive fields—as well as actual employment offers—reveal that female PhD applicants fare at least as well as their male counterparts in math-intensive fields” (Ceci et al 2014, p.75). Just take a look at Table 1 (main picture above), and compare the percentage of women who applied for STEM jobs to the percentage who were offered the job.

There might be strongly voiced reasons as to why women should have schemes that promote their careers in STEM, but if we know that women’s careers are being put first because of their gender, then why suspend a man who points this out? It reminds me of The Clash lyric:

“You have the right to free speech, as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it”. 

What kind of world have we created when people cannot state the obvious without being punished for it?

 

About the author

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society.

 

 

 

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Comparing Attitudes towards Masculinity in the United States to Southern Europe

This is the first in a series of blogs about views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world. To start us off, Professor Miles Groth of Wagner College, New York, relates his thoughts on masculinity in the United States compared to Southern Europe.

 

by Professor Miles Groth

I return to Italy every year for many reasons but have also traveled in Spain, Portugal and France, Europe’s other “Latin” counties. I’ve just returned from my annual stay in Venice and have a few “anthropological” observations to make related to so-called “toxic masculinity”.

Latin men are such a contrast to American men and, it seems, to other Anglophone groups. They enjoy their masculinity and take pride in it. So do Latin women, who as a group are among the strongest women I’ve seen anywhere. I’ve visited more than a dozen countries in my lifetime, but if you can believe it, never the UK, so I must withhold adding British males to the generalization I’m making about men in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, whom I’ve seen first-hand. What I see and read second-hand, however, suggests including British men. I should add I don’t trust any “representations” in the media about a people and their culture, and trust only what I have seen in person. It’s among my plans for retirement to remedy this and visit a friend who’s located in Scarborough and do a road trip as well as visit London and Edinburgh. I want to get to Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well.

My point here is not autobiography, however, but rather that Anglophone males, above all Americans, seem more confused about their gender, sex and sexuality than males in the “Latin” countries I’ve mentioned. I’ll bracket for now Scandinavian, German and Austrian men, many of whom I know and have seen in their natural habitat, but they, too, seem to be less confused about being male.

I watch a bit of local television everywhere to get a sense of the national and local “scene,” but most of my “field work” is simply observing people in public places and casual settings, having sorted them out from the tourists. Venice is not the best place for such an anthropologist as I am, but in northern Italy, which will be my point of reference in these generalizations, “gender trouble” seems much less severe. I should add that I also know men from other parts of Italy and they share the features of northern Italians.

Italian men (and women) continue to enjoy the traditional gender roles we now oddly enough call sex roles, while seeming to have little trouble accepting differences in sexual orientation in both males and females, even though for most Italians homosexuality is still a puzzling option. I think this is because both men and women freely kiss members of the same sex. They do less hugging than Americans now do. The kissing, while very intimate indeed, is not at all sexual. (So, which is more intimate—lips to cheek or chest to chest?)

The question then becomes for us in the States and in our parent country, Britain: why is the USA the source of the bleak and harmful notion of “toxic masculinity”? At the source of this destructive way speaking, and the current anti-male movement related to it, is what I will call “male trouble” among men and boys in the States.

There is trouble it is said in being male, trouble from which emanates the notion of masculinity being “toxic.” This strikes Latin-European men and women as nonsense. Being male and masculinity are prized and enjoyed by males and females, just as being female and femininity are by females and males. This is not limited to high-profile “stars” and media “personalities.”

A pop TV show I watched for a few minutes through jet-lag haze my first night in Venice is a case in point in this, my brief anthropological investigation. The guests were playing a “dating game.” With equal dignity, the males and females were masculine and feminine in the traditional ways. Interestingly enough, neither groups smile all over the place as much as Americans do, even for the television camera. The point is that both groups were strong and beautiful. To have spoken of masculinity as “toxic” would have been as outrageous as talking about femininity as “poisonous.” So, where has this American notion of males as dangerous, sickening and bad come from? That is my question. To repeat: it’s missing elsewhere, not only in Southern Europe among all “classes,” but also, as far as I can tell, in the Middle East, Asia, India and South America.

I think it will be a very long time indeed for Latin European and Eastern European, Asian and all Islam-based cultures to find any of this talk of masculinity as poisonous at all believable let alone acceptable.

 

Miles Groth

September 2018

 

About the author

Professor Miles Groth. Miles Groth, PhD, first taught university students in 1972 and will complete his teaching career at the end of the current academic year in late summer 2019. Along the way, his teaching experience also ranged from students in Grade Five elementary school and fourth-year MD residents in psychiatry at a general hospital in metropolitan New York City. His interest in the well-being of boys and men began about 15 years ago when he noticed diminishing interest in classroom and campus life among male college students. He has been the editor of The International Journal of Men’s Health, Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies, and New Male Studies: An International Journal. He is co-editor of Engaging College Men. Understanding What Works and Why (2010) and has lectured on the psychology of boys and men in Canada, Australia, and Germany, as well as the United States. For several years he contributed to a blog on boys and men for Psychology Today.

 

 

 

Open post

Reflections on themes from the Male Psychology Conference, 2018

by Dr Helen Driscoll & Dr Rebecca Owens, University of Sunderland

 

The fifth annual Male Psychology Conference took place at University College London in June, hosted by the Male Psychology Network’s founders, Dr John Barry and Martin Seager. The conference brought together researchers and practitioners seeking to understand male psychology and work with men to improve health and wellbeing.

Attending the conference was inspirational. It made us aware of how many people, male and female, are passionately conducting research specifically on male psychology, working in practice to improve wellbeing in men, and developing programmes and interventions to benefit men and boys.

Many presenters highlighted possibly the greatest challenge facing male psychology researchers and practitioners working with men – male suicide. The fact that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 was highlighted by a number of presenters. Joel Beckman from CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably, dedicated to tackling male suicide) discussed CALM’s gendered service run by clinically trained staff. This service is designed to help men feel there is someone they can talk to and relate to. He also presented some of CALM’s campaigns which raise awareness of the magnitude and impact of male suicide. It is estimated that eighty-four men are victims of suicide every week in the UK, yet awareness of this has been limited.

Take a look at CALM’s powerful ‘Project Eighty Four’ campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=21&v=ahjPfpbefkU

There was also discussion of work being done on the causes of male suicide and how best to prevent it. Glen Poole (Men’s Health Forum, Australia) argued that social and relationship problems are often key pathways to suicide in men, but the common model relies on men expressing suicidality, which often they do not. Glen also made an interesting argument around a gendered approach to prevention; he suggested that men do not always need to talk in order to cope, and that understanding of problems rather than feeling-based conversations may be more important.

A much overlooked issue facing many men is domestic abuse. There is little awareness of the extent to which men are victims of domestic abuse. Men are less likely to perceive what is happening to them as abuse. Men are also less likely to tell anyone, often fearing that they won’t be believed, and fearing ridicule. Mark Brooks (Chairman of ManKind Initiative UK) reported on the charity’s anonymous helpline for male victims of domestic abuse, designed to meet the needs of male victims, many of whom have never spoken to anyone about their abuse. Such services are crucial to supporting male victims and helping them to escape abusive relationships.

A number of presenters discussed projects designed to improve the wellbeing of men. For example, Nathan Roberts from A Band of Brothers presented their rites of passage programme, in which men from the local community enable disaffected young men to grow personally and socially as they approach adulthood, effectively reducing offending. Ianto Doyle and Luke Harney from Journeyman UK presented on another rites of passage programme based in the South West of the UK. The Journeyman programme is an annual rites of passage adventure weekend with teenagers, which provides models of positive masculinity.

It was good to see such a focus on positive aspects of masculinity, and this was one of the themes of the conference. One of the keynote speakers, Professor Matt Englar-Carlson (Califonria State University) noted, that a lot of attention is paid to aspects of masculinity which are seen as negative (the unhelpful notion of ‘toxic masculinity’). Englar-Carlson argued that much academic literature focusses on male pathology and problems, with insufficient attention paid to positive aspects of masculinity in our understanding of men, and how this can limit empathy for difficulties facing men. This theme was expanded by John Barry (University College London, and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network) and journalist Martin Daubney (founder of the Men and Boys Coalition) in their presentation of their study examining predictors of positive mental attitude in men. Contrary to popular stereotypes about men, they found that values of honesty and reliability are important to British men, and that job satisfaction and being in a long-term relationship were the strongest predictors of happiness in men.

One of the conference themes was criminality and what could be done about it, with a focus on the needs of male offenders. Two of the keynote speakers discussed limitations in the ability of the forensic mental health system to understand and address the needs of men.

In her keynote, Dr Naomi Murphy (HMP Whitemoor) discussed the importance of addressing trauma in male offenders with personality disorders in order to ensure effective rehabilitation. Many serious offenders have a history of significant trauma, such as sexual abuse, neglect, and physical and emotional abuse. However, this has often not been addressed. Dr Murphy presented a new approach which seeks to address the trauma, increase capacity for emotional intimacy and improve wellbeing. In his keynote, Dr Ashley-Christopher Fallon (Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust) discussed the lack of attention to male gender issues in rehabilitation programmes, despite the majority of service users being male. He presented Birmingham & Solihull’s Male Gender Strategy, designed to improve effectiveness of work with male service users. Initiatives such as these are likely to be crucial to the ability of forensic services to help male offenders, and thereby also reduce reoffending.

We have included details of only some of the many excellent presentations to give a flavour of the work being done. A full list of the presentations and posters from the conference is available here: https://malepsychology.org.uk/the-conference-2018/

It was amazing to see the passionate work being undertaken by researchers from various fields, and practitioners, all with the aim of ultimately promoting the mental health and wellbeing of men and boys – we look forward to attending next year’s conference, the first year in which Male Psychology is an official section of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

 

About the authors

Dr Helen Driscoll is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland. She gained her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree from Newcastle University and PhD in Psychology from Durham University. Helen is a Chartered Psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her PhD examined sex differences in intrasexual aggression and intimate partner violence from an evolutionary perspective. Helen’s current research interests include sexual behaviour and sexuality, male psychology, dark personality and adult play.

Twitter: @mirapiform
Dr Becci Owens is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland, a Chartered Psychologist, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is an evolutionary psychologist with a research focus on male psychology and mental health, sex differences in mating behaviours and mating strategies, and body image and modifications.
Twitter: DrBecciOwens
Open post

Suicide prevention, the Zero Suicide Alliance way.

On November 16th 2017 I was at the House of Commons for the launch of the Harry’s Masculinity Report. I hadn’t known before, but in another part of the Commons, Dr Joe Rafferty was launching the Zero Suicide Alliance.

I introduced myself to Joe and had a brief conversation about what we were both doing. I was really impressed with the training he was proposing, and after taking it myself the next day, after taking the training, I invited Joe to speak at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL the following June

Those who saw Joe speak at the conference in June 2018 will know that he has got a lot of inspiring things to say. But at the core is his work promoting the Zero Suicide Alliance training. I would encourage anybody to take this training. Not only does it appear to me to offer sensible advice (e.g. don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide) but the training can be taken online and completed in as little as 20 minutes.

The training adopts the London Underground’s ‘see it, say it, sorted’ approach by suggesting ways to:

  • identifying when someone might be suicidal
  • speak out in a supportive way
  • signpost the individual to services or support

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so please take the training, if not today then set a time in your diary to do it. The training is free and can be done by following the instructions here.

 

About the author

John Barry is a chartered psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

 

 

 

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