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Adult mental health

Masculinity: A blessing and a burden?

7 July 2017

It is often our personal experiences which influence our academic trajectory. Throughout my life to date, I have been told that I need to demonstrate certain behaviours, simply because I am male. These include not crying (“boys don’t cry”) and that I should not show any displays of emotion (“man up”) when faced with difficulty.

My frustration and dissatisfaction with these expectations partly kindled my interest in clinical psychology as a profession. As this included the possibility of helping men to challenge their conceptions of masculinity, connect with their emotions and facilitate their own psychological growth.

Regardless of my own personal interest in this area, I would consider this to be a particularly important issue. Research suggests that men between the ages of 20 and 49 are more likely to die from suicide than any other single form of death There is also research to suggest that men make up 90% of the homeless population and 95% of those housed in our prison system, and that men continue to not seek help for their physical or emotional problems as readily as women do.

When I was informed about the three-minute thesis competition, I felt inspired and enthused to stand up in front of an audience of my peers, and speak openly and passionately not only about my own frustrations with the concept of ‘masculinity’, but also how my research has shown how some men with a history of violent offending consider their masculinity.

What I found was that these men wanted to be ‘nice guys’ but found it difficult walking the tightrope of masculinity. They knew that too little masculinity could lead to vulnerability, and too much masculinity could lead to aggression. Unfortunately, they fell on the side of violence, as the difficulties in their lives were too great, and the armour of masculinity (which society had placed upon them) was just too heavy.

Although I consider that my research could have far reaching implications, male gender blindness is nowhere more evident than in the relative lack of research into problems affecting the male gender, notably in the United Kingdom.

It would appear that we are currently living in a post-feminist culture where it is commonly believed that only females can suffer because of their gender (which clearly they can and do). Unfortunately, this is perpetuating the lack of understanding as to why the male suicide rate is so high, and why society is so much more tolerant of males being exposed to risk and danger

Seager et al argue that the full spectrum of the human condition in all its variation and diversity should be the object of our psychological curiosity and research.

Having won the Cardiff heart of the three minute-thesis competition, I am keen to know whether I will be successful in obtaining a place in the grand final held in Birmingham on 11th September 2017. These places will be offered to the top six entrants from all the UK universities who entered the competition.

If I was fortunate enough to be offered a place, I would look forward to speaking once again about this issue. This would be another step towards my vocation to help men break free from pressures to conform to social roles which are currently doing them harm.