It’s that time of year again… No, we’re not talking about Christmas. Today is International Men’s Day! If you’ve got no idea what this is, you may want to read the Fuse blog we wrote on the same day last year. The theme for 2021 is ‘Better relations between men and women’, recognising the need to promote gender equality for women as well as men. Which sounds good to us, as two female researchers who’ve been working on a men’s health project for the past year.
In last year’s blog we mentioned being awarded funding from the NIHR ARC NE&NC to conduct research into the BoroManCan campaign, which aims to inspire positive change around men’s health and wellbeing in Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland. Colleagues from Public Health South Tees were keen to know which elements of BoroManCan were working and where improvements could be made. In collaboration with academics from Durham and Teesside Universities, we interviewed staff, representatives of partner organisations and other key stakeholders to capture their views on BoroManCan. We also trained and supported three peer researchers to gather insights from local men (and one woman). They chose to conduct interviews to explore men’s health and wellbeing needs, to help us understand whether BoroManCan could be doing more to improve their access to health services and other sources of support.
The interviews provided valuable insights into barriers to men’s help-seeking behaviour. To start with, Teesside’s industrial heritage has led to an expectation that the stereotypical ‘Boro man’ should be tough, resilient, and able to fulfil the roles of household provider and protector. Industrial decline, increasing unemployment and job insecurity were felt to have impacted negatively on men’s mental health. There was a general perception that men are not as likely as women to talk about their feelings or their health, and that there is a particular stigma to discussing mental health problems. Rather than accessing formal services, many Boro men prefer to avoid embarrassment by attempting self-help or using coping strategies such as excessive alcohol consumption and substance misuse. Apart from wanting to maintain their masculine image, there were also practical hurdles around demands from employment and the benefits system.
|Two of the three peer researchers, Matthew (left) and Neil (right)|
"So I think one of the really good things about it [BoroManCan] is it's very specific to Middlesbrough. And obviously when you look at the stats, you know, you look at suicide rates and mental health in Middlesbrough, they're really high and I think men do struggle to engage. But when local men that are very similar to them are engaging, I think it helps other people." (Stakeholder 1)
"When people feel anxious, they're feeling alone. And BoroManCan, it was a way forward for them not to feel alone and to be able to share their story and find a way forward. 'Cos BoroManCan, it leads onto other things. If you share your story, you’re finding you're not alone. You find out how other people have pain, depression and anxiety and you can follow suit. It leads you to find help." (Stakeholder 7)
Today we’re hosting a webinar to share and discuss our research findings in more detail. For anyone who can’t make it, the webinar will be recorded and shared via the BoroManCan YouTube channel. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about the campaign or the research; we’d be happy to share our final report once this is ready for publication. And watch this space for future blogs on this subject from our practice partners and peer researchers.