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

By Dr John Barry

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

What might explain the exacerbation of this continuing tragedy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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

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