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Fear of stigma holding men back from seeking help – BIG report finds

A fear of being stigmatised is holding men back from accessing vital support services, according to a report published yesterday (9 July 2012) from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and commissioned from the Young Foundation.

It found that the perception that men should simply ‘man-up’ in difficult times serves as a barrier to them seeking help, jeopardising their health and well-being and putting them at risk of financial and social exclusion.

The Engagement of Men report explores the reasons why men are more resistant than women to seeking help and what can be done to encourage more men to ask for access support before they hit crisis point.

The Young Foundation surveyed 500 BIG funded projects and found nearly two thirds of people benefiting were women even though many issues are more likely to affect men.  Men aged 15 to 44 are four times more likely to commit suicide than women  (1) and research shows that men are more likely to suffer mental health problems and stigmatisation from the effects of unemployment and financial exclusion and are less likely to take time off work to access support (2).

BIG is calling on more charities, community and voluntary groups to do more to engage with men who are struggling to cope, and today launches a ‘good practice guide’ to help voluntary organisations develop projects that reach more men.

The report profiles successful ‘men-friendly’ projects, including the Breckfield & North Everton Neighbourhood Council (BNENC), awarded £10,000 from BIG in 2011 to develop innovative health projects for men in Liverpool, and YouthAction Northern Ireland, awarded £699,147 from BIG in June 2009 for its Young Men Talking Project.

Examples of good practice highlighted in the report include BNENC, who used £10,000 of Lottery funding to further develop the HIM project in Liverpool. The project campaigns for resources to put men's health needs on the Government's agenda, and has developed an innovative and diverse range of projects and activities to engage with men of all ages. The project runs a number of men's health initiatives in Liverpool such as 'Dig in', 'Cycle for health', 'Fish 'n' trips' and 'the sensible drinking campaign' among others.

Peter Wanless, Big Lottery Fund Chief Executive, said: “This research acknowledges men face very specific social issues and problems, and highlights the importance of ensuring that men can see the opportunities to access services which address their needs. We want the report to open up a discussion that challenges traditional notions of masculinity and are encouraging the voluntary and community sector to consider the specific needs of men when designing projects or services.

“We believe it is vital to engage men earlier, such as encouraging them to seek early health intervention which will help improve their lives as well as ease the strain on families as well as the voluntary sector, the state and the economy down the line.”

Graham Kelly, 52, from Walton, has been a volunteer at BNENC for eight years. He said: “I live alone so before I started going to the Breckfield centre I was sitting in a lot watching telly or maybe playing computer games. Since I have found the club, I’m there five days a week. It’s helped me get my weight down and you get to meet new people.

“We’ve got two veterans who come along and it’s great talking to them – they have got some great tales to tell. Kenny is 82 and he takes the youth club out on fishing trips. I enjoy going on the walks every week round Stanley Park or Everton Park, and maintaining the gardens or allotments round the centre. Some of the lads here put on a pair of heels and took part in the White Ribbon ‘walk in her shoes’ domestic violence campaign last year. It’s a good bunch of people here and there are lots of things to get involved in.”

Another example is the Young Men Talking Project run by YouthAction Northern Ireland. The group aims to prevent despair, depression, low self-esteem and self harm in both urban and rural young men aged 14 to 25 years. This particular project engages young men in group work activities to improve understanding and coping skills around issues related to masculinity, mental health and emotional well being, violence, education and employability. Participants then develop local community based projects to raise awareness of young men's issues in their local area.

Darren Davidson, 17, from South Armagh said: “Before getting involved with YouthAction, I had very little to do with my free time as there are hardly any opportunities for young people in the area that I live in. I never bothered with the rest of the lads in my area because we had little in common. This caused me to have low self confidence, and I also had issues with anger.

“When I got involved with YouthAction, I was introduced to so many more opportunities. I gained a lot of knowledge around the conflict here and other aspects of everyday life. I went on to volunteer with the organisation and met other volunteers. I helped start up a youth group in my own community which helped me become better friends with the rest of the lads. My self confidence has greatly increased and is continuing to do so. I would recommend YouthAction to any young males because it gives you so many more opportunities and also can help you get qualifications.”

Will Norman, Director of Research at the Young Foundation said: “The pressures exerted by the economic downturn affect all of society. However men are least likely to engage in the projects that can provide them with the assistance needed. This is costing them not just in terms of health and wellbeing but has a wider effect on society as a whole. This research shows that the voluntary sector can play a leading role in getting more men engaged in the projects that address their needs and potentially improving the lives of millions besides.”

(1) Social Trends 2012, ONS, 2012

(2) National Mental Health Development Unit 2012 Delivering Male

Further Information

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Notes to Editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded over £4.4bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £28 billion has now been raised and more than 370,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
  • The Young Foundation brings together insight, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs. We have a 55 year track record of success with ventures such as the Open University, Which?, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Healthline (the precursor of NHS Direct).
  • We work across the UK and internationally – carrying out research, influencing policy, creating new organisations and supporting others to do the same, often with imaginative uses of new technology. We now have over 60 staff, working on over 40 ventures at any one time, with staff in New York and Paris as well as London and Birmingham in the UK.

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