Understanding Mens Health and Well-being needs in Middlesbrough.
Understanding Mens Health and Well-being needs in Middlesbrough.
Participating as a peer researcher for Boromancan and Newcastle University, as part of a larger team of researcher, Here are my personal findings witrh my own ideas for promoting mens health, wherever you are. 15 interviews with a variety of different men, asking set questions in a conversational setting. Listening to the answers and highlighting themes that emerge and these adding my own thinking on how to support men in a wider sense. All participants have had a period in their life that has been a struggle/difficult and have suffered the effects of low levels of well-being. All participants live with partners or a safe home with family members.
What is wellbeing?
Many see wellbeing as balancing the mental and physical and understand that difficult moments arise when they are not in balance. For some well-being is not so polarised, it can and should include emotional and social elements too.
Theme: Wellbeing being is created through action and communication.
Work life balance:
All men have found balance after experiencing a difficult period in their lives, most around middles age. It is hard to fit in well-being with jobs and children, especially if both parents work, too busy to apply prevention techniques and spend quality time with children. Desk based jobs offer nothing in terms of finding time to look after oneself. Emotions can build up and change causes stress and burn out. Routines support positive living, relaxation is key.
Theme: Men leave it too late.
- Focus on young dads- planning, organisation, support, video/workshop
- Single men older – cooking classes, dating
- Desk based – work based stretching, planning health around work
For many travelling into Middlesbrough can be expensive on the bus, especially if unemployed or on a low wage. Asian men do not regularly travel outside of Middlesbrough for well-being. Covid has reduced the randomness of travel and visiting places.
Theme: Public transport is too expensive.
- Field trips for communities
- Limited time Bus passes – unemployed, retired, mental health support, counselling visits
Being involved in sport and activities at an early age creates memories and a positive outlook on life. It teaches men how to make friends and communicate.
Theme: A healthy childhood is one of the foundations of wellbeing.
- Relaxing in the class-room, breath work, meditation and yoga, art
- Fathering/parenting classes/video
- Getting kids outside and making friends in nature
Self-awareness seems to come after a period of difficulty. Learning how to spot when things are not OK, noticing drinking, drug taking, negative self-talk and material striving. Counselling is not a preferred option, however talking with others is a common theme. For many, peace is found in the present moment.
Theme: Self awareness allows for healthy choices.
- Learning skills for prevention instead of self-medication/firstaid
- Skills for self-awareness – mindfulness, talking circles, counselling, religion, how to spot when you are not right.
- Helpline for listening and signposting. Designated number for Boromancan, one mobile shared between volunteers who are training to be councillors, able to chat and signpost.
- AA and drug related groups.
- Personality testing and evaluating/coaching, workshops/video
When living with a partner in a loving environment, home life is secure, honest and safe. Most men make time for themselves with hobbies, some active and some not. Not much mention of reading. Home is a place where man is a role model.
Theme: Happy home = happy man
- Single men all ages, video, info-graphic – creating a safe home.
- Moving in with someone, info-graphic – how to help each other.
- Infographic on role models at home.
- Relationship advice
Parks, walks and nature are valued and seen as an essential element for well-being.
Theme: Spend time outdoors.
- Climate change and looking after the environment – volunteering
- Communities working with the council to create outdoor spaces and guerrilla gardens.
Men can all think negatively, and this can affect them in different ways. Some of their beliefs were learned in the early years and some by living in this society. Media can polarise the way men think they are supposed to be EG with body image and gender bias. Men can be self-critical and give themselves labels as well as excuses not to do anything or go out.
Theme: We will all experience negative thoughts.
- Suicide support – Assist
- Talking groups
Those that feel comfortable talking honestly have small circles of friends developed over many years, live with a loving partner or have been through a difficult period and realised that they needed to talk and reach out. Older men need to learn how to be open and communicate their feelings. Women are more likely to see mens health messages and mention it to their partners.
Men like to share their activities and complete tasks and like to be listened too by others. Finding the right people to talk too can be difficult.
Theme: Men need encouraging to talk openly.
- Communication classes-counselling skills
- More male counsellors
- Relationship advice
- Coping with divorce
- Support line
Mens health can be focused around alcohol, however there is awareness that too much is bad. Some mention of reducing red meat and carbohydrates in the diet for improved health and some Asian food can also be high in fats.
Theme: Alcohol is a normal part of socialising for some.
- Weight watchers
- Cooking classes – single men of all ages, parent and child cooking classes
- Promote alcohol free images
Motivation to look after self:
Motivation does not come naturally to everyone and previous life experiences can effect it. Most men have learnt to improve their motivation after a difficult period, they have found a reason to be motivated. Some have had routines that where set at school doing sport. Others plan new routines that they have never done before, especially when they have a reason. For those that like going to the gym, it is tracking progress and sticking to a plan than makes the difference, you must do this yourself and that can be hard.
Motivation is easy to lose if you are surrounded by drink, drugs and food as well as negative people and unemployment/low incomes. People can start activities in the summer and then stop in the winter.
Mental stimulation plays a part in keeping the mind active and positive. Sleep routines, booking things and looking forward to social events. Looking for or being a role model for others.
Theme: Motivation needs a reason.
- Free health checks
- Free gym sessions
- Volunteering in the outdoors
- Coaching sessions – group workshop or video
Old beliefs are passed on through the generations and reinforced in daily life. Many of the participants male parents and grandparents never showed emotions or talked about them openly. Men allow emotion to build up and fester, ignoring and hiding problems perhaps as a form of protection and shielding to those around them.
Men still hold onto traditional roles such as earning and providing, talking does not come easily as most men have never been in an environment where this can be learned. Men feel shame when they don’t match up to society norms.
Teesside is an old industrial town and many still distrust ‘the company’, ‘the manager’, ’the person in power.’
Toxic masculinity exists and all men know what a macho man is. “I am hard”, show no weakness, pride and lots of ego. However, all the men in this research showed no signs of this. They knew they were men and knew that this old stereotype has got them in trouble in the past and will continue to get others in the future.
There is an awareness that this is slowly changing but it will take time and perhaps a few more generations. The drink and drugs culture plays a part in creating role models for younger men.
Only 2 men mentioned LGTBQ issues. Old fashioned ideas of homosexuality still exist and may be stronger in the Asian community.
Theme: Masculinity is not one fixed thing.
- Helping the Asian community with LGBT support, how families can deal with that better.
- Teenager/young men – What is masculinity? Lets have a conversation/college workshop/ video?
- Quiet areas in gyms for working out away from people.
People still tend to mix in their own racial groups, most do not mix. For some old beliefs about language barriers, perception barriers still exist in the Asian community.
For others the sense of community is strong in certain areas of Middlesbrough. Different communities have different needs and having a local person as a catalyst for change can help to communicate with harder to reach communities.
Theme: Middlesbrough has many different communities.
- Religions can play a part.
- Community leaders for Boromancan
- Promoting men together in non-traditional settings.
- Promote all activities to all communities.
- Volunteering outdoors
Taking the main themes and looking deeper for other themes and ideas.
List of themes
- Wellbeing being is created through action and communication.
- We will all experience negative thoughts
- Men leave it too late
- Men need encouraging to talk openly
- Motivation needs a reason
- Happy home = happy man
- A healthy childhood is one of the foundations of wellbeing
- Spend time outdoors
- Masculinity is not one fixed thing
- Middlesbrough has many different communities
- Alcohol is a normal part of socialising for some
- Public transport is too expensive
Themes of themes
- Men conform to social norms within their own communities.
- Men can change through action
- Men are role models
Men need a leader/leadership and a vision.