Writing for the Telegraph, Martin Daubney asks, “Why isn’t there more of a focus on male psychology?” Severe mental health problems are more likely to affect men, and more common issues such as depression occur equally in men despite men being underdiagnosed.
Men have a reputation for not opening up. But people will open up when they feel safe doing so. This means taking men seriously, not minimizing their concerns, and not blaming them.
Sitting down and talking might not always be the best strategy. I know a psychologist who told me that the best conversations he’s had with his dad was when they were playing golf. An activity can be a powerful tool for men. Especially when we don’t push a man to start talking right away, instead letting him take his time, and allowing for the ebb and flow of conversation with silences and interludes of more superficial and even humorous talk.
And sometimes only men can connect with other men. The idea of male only support groups may be met with resistance in some circles, however. But Daubney quotes Martin Seager from Men’s Minds Matter:
…in single-sex groups men can be very blokey one minute, then talk about something incredibly painful the next. It really worked. Men are very worried about shame and embarrassment, and there are rules about masculinity that need to be honoured, not belittled.
If men are alone in a room they are tremendously good at supporting each other; they’re like soldiers in combat that really care for each other. So we realised that a men’s group is a really powerful space.
A focus on masculinity as toxic, however, may only make things worse. Seager says,
Men don’t need to ‘man up’ and they don’t need to ‘woman up’ – be more like women. We need to allow men to be men and honour that, on their terms – and that comes from 30 years’ experience in clinical practice.
Psychology for men must start with what men need rather than a critique of masculinity, lists of how men need to change, or an analysis of how men’s communication styles are wrong.