BY GLEN POOLE, STRATEGIC DIRECTOR, THE MEN’S NETWORK
Men are notoriously bad at getting help, taking care of our health and when it comes to talking – well we just don’t talk.
Hands up who’s heard these types of statements – maybe even said them yourselves?
And how many times have you heard someone say that “the helping professions are hopeless at helping men and boys get help”? Probably never or hardly ever!
Well that’s the focus of a new course I’ll be running later this month and the purpose of this post is to give you a flavour of the course and share with you our Top Five Tips For Helping Men Get Help.
And if you want to come on the. course this time or are interested in taking this course in the future then there are further details for you at the end of this post.
Of course it isn’t true that everyone working in the helping professions is hopeless at helping men get help – just as it isn’t true that ALL men are notoriously bad at getting help.
But rather than focus on what men do or don’t do, the Helping Men Get Help course helps professionals working with men and boys to learn some tried and tested techniques to help more men get help and access your services and projects.
Everything you will learn on the course is drawn from one of three sources:
- National and international research on the barriers men and boys face when accessing services
- Real life examples of best practice many of which were showcased at the recent National Conference for Men and Boys
- Direct personal experience of successfully helping more men access help and support
The course is designed for service providers in areas such as health promotion, parenting, education, social care, mental health, support groups, community safety and housing. The course is for anyone concerned with helping men and boys get better access to and outcomes from their existing services, or anyone interested in developing new services and projects for men and boys.
The skills you learn will help you make your case to funders and commissioners, help you create effective marketing campaigns and help you design and deliver your services in a way that will help more men to access the help and support you provide.
Obviously the only way to get the full value of this course is to come along and do the course, but we thought we’d share our Top Five Tips for Helping Men Get Help to get you thinking about how you can make some changes to the way you approach working with men and boys.
TIP ONE: Champion equality for men
Men and boys are a distinct group with specific needs who face a number of inequalities in terms of their access to and outcomes from a broad range of public services.
The Government tells us it is “committed to equal treatment and equality of opportunity for all and to addressing existing inequalities for men….wherever they are found”. The Government also says “it is equally committed to taking action to address the needs of men and boys where the evidence shows inequalities exist”
There are many examples where men and boys are unequal because they are in the majority – eg we are the majority of crime victims, rough sleepers, premature adult deaths, suicides, underperforming pupils, children excluded from school, parents separated from our children etc.
We can also experience inequality when we are in the minority, eg when we are victims of domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse or have an eating disorder. Being in minority means services are not tailored to our needs and we considerably less likely to access those services as a result.
If you want to become more effective at helping more men get help the first step is to acknowledge the inequalities that men and boys face and become a champion for their equality.
TIP TWO: Meet men where they are
If you want to deliver services that are more effective at helping men get help then it’s really important to meet men where they are not where you want them to be or think they should be.
At a basic level this can mean meeting men where they are physically. Some of the most successful services don’t wait for men to show up, they find out where the men they want to help are and go and meet them there – in pubs, workplaces, football grounds, even in some instances knocking on their doors.
It can also mean meeting men where they already are practically. Men are more likely to be in work, more likely to work full time and overtime and more likely to work away from their home town. Some of the most successful men’s services work because they operate in the evenings or weekends when men are more likely to be available.
Finally, it can mean meeting men where they are psychologically using language, settings and set-ups that are familiar and comfortable to men and boys, rather than expecting them to fit themselves into services that use language, settings and set-ups that are already working well for most women, but may never be appropriate for the majority of men you want to help.
TIP THREE: Call a spade a spade
This is the easiest and often quickest way to get more men into your service and it’s so obvious it’s astounding that the vast majority of services don’t do this.
Make sure you are telling men that men are welcome to access your service. If you advertise a parenting service to ‘parents and carers’ or a health service to ‘people over 40’ you can guarantee that lots of women will turn up but very few men.
If you take the simple step of advertising a parenting service for dads or a health service for ‘men over 40’, the only thing that will stop more men turning up at your service is the quality of your advertising (in it’s broadest sense including PR, word-of-mouth etc).
If more men turn up for a while and then stop coming, then you need to look beyond your advertising to the services you are providing to find our why they don’t work as well for men.
TIP FOUR: Be proudly pro-male
If you were gay, black, disabled or Chinese can you image turning up to a service where the staff are unwelcoming to, negative towards, suspicious of, or harbour low opinions about gay people, black people, disabled people or Chinese people? How likely would you be to access that service?
Ask yourselves honestly maybe rating yourselves on a scale of 1 – 10:
- Are you and all of your colleagues welcoming to men?
- Are you and all of your colleagues positive about men?
- Do you and all of your colleagues trust men?
- Do you and all of your colleagues have a high opinion of men?
- Do you and you colleagues have different personal opinions about men and women?
If I asked you and all your colleagues to complete the following sentences what would you say?
“All women deserve my help and support because………..”
“All men deserve my help and support because…….”
Are you proudly pro-male and proudly pro-female? Or is the way that you and your colleagues think about men and women in general different and does that different what of thinking promote men’s equality or add to their inequality?
TIP FIVE: Change the gender discourse
The Big Lottery’s INVISIBLE MEN report published in the summer explored the barriers that exist which prevent men from engaging with projects and services as a beneficiary.
It found that: “one of the biggest barriers in engaging men into social projects is this overall resistance to engage with gender as an issue from a male perspective. Despite evidence that tells us that that male engagement is an issue, we do not rethink our approach. This needs to be tackled so that engagement can happen effectively.”
We have a simple trick for helping you to rethink your approach. You may consider that the ways services tend to view men and women is through a gender filter where women HAVE problems and men ARE problems – and this is reflected in the types of services we offer men and the point at which men access services.
Whilst there are more men and boys who are victims of violence than there are men and boys who are perpetrators of violence, there are more services for male perpetrators of violence (men who ARE problems) than there are services for male victims of violence (men who HAVE problems).
If we mostly provide services for men who ARE problems then it is little wonder that men who HAVE problems are not coming forward to access our services.
Try looking at the problems your service wants to address through new eyes, through a gender filter where women HAVE problems and men HAVE problems too. And then begin to look at the problems men HAVE as an opportunity to work with men, to help them overcome their challenges so they can flourish and thrive and grow and realize their greatest potential.
In this way you can start to play your part in changing the gender discourse to help us all become more effective at addressing the inequalities that women experience and the inequalities that men experience.
FINALLY, if you want to become more skilled at Helping Men Get Help then the new course Helping Men Get Help takes place in Brighton on Wednesday 28th November.
The course is run through of training partner Leading The Change and costs £150 per delegate and the good news is we have a special Friends of The Men’s Network offer for you to access this course for just £50.
You can click here now to buy your discounted ticket today and to find out more about the course click on this link now.
Members of the Network and indeed any readers can use the new (from Ist October 2012) advice line formerly opperated by the EHRC.
The Link is to their website. It would be good for them to be asked questions by men. And for men/organisations to test their respoonses with regard to men’s issues.
Click to access JosolyneSimonThesisWebVersion020512.pdf
This thesis is a valuable piece of work. It is readable and draws together a lot of the most current research. It also looks at why men may not seek help as well as why agencies may not offer to help.