WHY WON’T MEN ASK FOR HELP?
Brave Starts co-founder Lucy Standing was standing up for men when she gave evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into post-pandemic UK labour markets in February this year. Acknowledging the barriers women can face returning to the labour market, Lucy’s point was that men might be having a harder time of it- and getting them to talk about it is not always easy.
At Brave Starts we know that women outnumber men in our membership. The balance of participation of women and men in our career exploration and change events is probably around 75% to 80% in favour of women. So why is it so hard to get men to participate in something that could help them?
It’s not a phenomenon confined to career change discussions or the UK.
Psychologists Michael Addis and James Mahalik note that much research supports the popular idea that men are much less likely to seek help from health professionals than women. A team from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention carried out a construction industry centred study specifically directed at “Understanding the Barriers and Pathways to Male Help-Seeking and Help-Offering”.
The latter identified male attitudes around the importance of being the ‘provider’ as a key obstacle to help-seeking. Men, or female interviewees with male partners, described how men viewed asking for help as a weakness.
A YouGov poll of 2.168 adults for Future Men revealed that 51 per cent believed they were expected to “man up” when “facing challenges” and 37 percent said they felt an expectation to be “the breadwinner”. The study found that 52 per cent of UK men felt pressured by social expectations.
It’s not hard to see how social expectations on men pile up. When the conflict in Ukraine broke out in February 2022, the New York Post reported how “Fighting-age Ukrainian men have been ordered to stay behind as tens of thousands of civilians flee the country…”.
Adrian Hancock’s study published in 2012 notes that “Work has long been recognized as an integral part of a man’s sense of personal identity”. He goes on to suggest that “When work is rendered weak, or taken away, there is an erosion of both identity and masculinity for many men…”.
Hancock’s study offers hope that in a modern world, and in later life, some men can make non-stereotypically masculine career decisions that help them into the workforce.
Addis and Mahalik note that, “Any strategy that increases the perception of normativeness for particular problems should be effective in facilitating help seeking.” The idea that men can seek help is something that is being normalised – but there is still a long way to go. Groups like ANDYSMANCLUB exist to “help men through the power of conversation”.
Brave Starts creates conversations in a community that shares the challenges men and women face when encountering job loss or a need to change direction. Need help? Ask.
Addis, M. & Mahalik, J. (2003). Men, Masculinity, and the Contexts of Help Seeking. The American psychologist. 58, p.p. 5-14.
Hancock, A. (2012). ‘It's a macho thing, innit?’ Exploringthe effects of masculinity on career choice and development. Gender. 19(4),p.p. 392-415.
Ross, V., Caton, N., Gullestrup, J. & Kõlves, K. (2019).Understanding the Barriers and Pathways to Male Help-Seeking and Help-Offering:A Mixed Methods Study of the Impact of the Mates in Construction Program. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 16, 2979.