Men and Distress: The Influence of Social Relationships on Coping and Management

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:54
Oral Presentation
Alexandra VICKERY, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
In the context of health, particularly mental health, there is a dominant narrative that men are more reluctant to seek help for distress than women (Addis and Mahlaik, 2002). Studies suggest that men do not open up or seek help on account of perceived threat to performing ‘hegemonic’ masculinity that limits emotional expression and vulnerability. In addition, men’s inability to express emotions and reluctance to seek help may also be due to men’s lack of social networks or their tendency to deal with things alone. Studies put forward that men use fewer, and more ineffective coping strategies than women to manage their mental health. This paper presents PhD research that explores men’s experiences of distress in regards to their help-seeking, coping and daily management. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with two sample groups of men: men from the general population and men who had accessed support groups. Findings indicate that strong social relationships and support networks are an influential factor in men’s help-seeking behaviour as well as being essential for managing and maintaining good emotional wellbeing. Men are active in managing their mental health and are able to proceed in managing moods effectively with the support from significant people around them. The use of two different sample groups enabled the exploration of various positive coping strategies that men deem effective. The research demonstrates the usefulness of support groups for men, particularly older men in addressing social isolation, as well as the importance of having someone safe to talk to in the face of everyday adversity. Masculinity is still very much present in the men’s accounts of their experiences, yet masculine norms are adapted in a more flexible way, enabling them to open up and engage with others around them as a means of successfully coping with distress.