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Three reasons you will miss pubs when they go extinct

by Dr John Barry

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

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

1/ Socialising is good for your wellbeing

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

2/ Pubs can be a good for your mental health

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

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

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

3/ People will become unemployed 

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

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

About the author

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

Sign up to the Male Psychology Network newsletter by emailing the author at john@malepsychology.org.uk

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New fathers in lockdown – a golden opportunity

By Dr John Barry

First published as a BPS blog here

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

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

 

Development of the father-infant relationship

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

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

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

 

Obstacles to getting involved e.g. work

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

Becoming a family man

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

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

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

About the author

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

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