Men and Distress: Help-Seeking, Coping and Daily Management

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:06
Oral Presentation
Alexandra VICKERY, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
In the context of mental health, talks about ‘gender equality’ should recognize that men also have gendered issues that may impact on their mental health too. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women (ONS, 2013), are more reluctant to seek help for distress and thus less likely to utilize health-care services (Addis and Mahalik, 2002; Courtenay, 2000). Studies suggest that men do not open up or seek help on account of a perceived threat to performing ‘hegemonic’ masculinity that limits emotional expression and vulnerability. They also put forward that men use fewer, and more ineffective coping strategies than women to manage their own mental health. In this context, there is a need to explore men’s positive experiences of help-seeking and coping with emotional difficulties in everyday life. This paper presents PhD research that explores men’s experiences of mental distress in regards to their help-seeking, coping and daily management but with a more positive emphasis on what they find effective. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of men to explore their experiences and how they cope with adversity. Analysis demonstrates distinct gendered characteristics of men’s help-seeking and coping behaviour. Masculine discourse is evident in men’s help-seeking and coping behaviour, as they attempt to take charge of distressful situations, adopt their own personal management strategies and utilize support in their own way. Men are still trying to live up to traditional masculine norms, particularly those of certain ages and social backgrounds, however findings suggest that men use these norms in a flexible and proactive way. The research aims to move away from a deficit approach that focuses on gendered barriers to a more positive focus, highlighting the presence of multiple, flexible masculinities as an advantage for men when managing their mental health.