Thursday, 28 February 2013

Think About Boys On Self Injury Awareness Day

Friday 1st March is Self Injury Awareness Day and at Helping Men we are asking people to consider the unique experience of boys and young men who self harm. 

According to LifeSIGNS, a self-injury support network, as many men self-injure as women, they just find it more difficult to come forward and ask for help.

LifeSIGNS male self-injury fact sheet says: "The only reason male self injury
is less commonly known about is because many men are  unable or unwilling to talk about  the subject, or admit that they  self-injure in order to cope with
their emotional distress." 


"Self-injury is a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotional distress, and it;s a bahaviour that many men rely on. The physical pain of self-injury can be easier to deal with than the distress that lies behind it, but it's nonetheless and indication of emotional pain and shouldn't be ignored or dismissed by anyone. 


Department of Health figures for 2010/2011 revealed that more than 200 boys and young men under 25 are admitted to hospital for intentional self-harm every week in England.

It is thought that boys are more likely to hide self-harm and less likely to access  emotional support. Patti Adler, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado and author of The Tender Cut, highlights gender differences in self-harming behaviour: 

"It's part of women's gender socialisation to turn inwards and self-destruct when they are upset," she says. "Men, when they are upset, tend to get angry; they externalise." Women tend to make small, hidden cuts, she says, whereas men tend to cut themselves more visibly.

If you want to find out more about self-harm in boys and men we recommend some general reading on self-harm:
You can also read three additional posts about the male experience of self-harm here on the Helping Men blog:

The male experience of self-harm


The following extract on the male experience of self-harm is taken from National Clinical Guidelines on self-harm - the image used is taken from the STEM4 teenage mental health charity website which contains some useful information on self-harming.

Only two studies examined the experience of self-harm in males
(RUSSELL2010 and TAYLOR2003 ). With regard to reasons behind self-harm, they were similar to those provided by women, with early childhood experiences such as neglect and abuse, experiences of rejection in adulthood, and as a coping strategy and alternative communication method being frequently reported (TAYLOR2003).

As with women, guilt and shame were frequent emotions expressed by the men
interviewed with one man stating that he felt ‘very ashamed’ of his self-harm and another that he was ‘punishing myself’ for it. As well as limiting the degree to which men seek support for their self-harm, this shame may perpetuate the problem by damaging their self-esteem further (TAYLOR2003).

RUSSELL2010 examined the experience of self-harm in four males and found the inability to maintain satisfaction or contentment was a central theme portrayed by all participants. One participant (RUSSELL2010) illustrates the potency of this issue in the following statement:

"Like you were supposed to enjoy a party or you’re supposed to enjoy a holiday. At the time you do, but underneath, you didn’t, ‘cause I always end up in hospital afterwards. My brothers said, oh you’re supposed to enjoy it, it’s been paid for and that, so I did, but I didn’t, ‘cause I used to destruct, but I couldn’t . . . . I couldn’t . . . separate them, happiness and sadness, erm, so I was out there enjoying it, I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t lasting, it was like it was a short term thing. . ."

All participants talked about the differences between men’s self-harm and
women’s, as if men’s was somehow more real:

"I think a lot of men do it, whereas a lot of women do it for sympathy, a lot of men do it out of anger and upset and . . . ."

Likewise, in a study carried out by TAYLOR2003 the differences between men
and women who self-harm was also a prominent theme. Firstly, men tended to injure themselves more severely than women and had less concern about bodily scars. They were more likely to engage in public and violent self-harm, such as punching themselves or a wall or breaking bones.

The concept of masculinity and the misconception that men should be
powerful and should conceal their weakness was another prominent theme
(RUSSELL2010, TAYLOR2003). Many of the interviewees felt that the expectation that men are ‘stronger’ and ‘able to cope’ was a particular issue for men who self-harm. One participant in particular felt that ‘to be seen as a man, you have to be seen as not weak’ (TAYLOR2003). Whilst they may try to conceal these feelings, they are likely to find expression in some way. As a result they may resort to self-harm as an expression of their underlying emotions (TAYLOR2003).


Men And Boys Who Self-Harm (3 short case studies)


A teenager who took a spontaneous overdose at a party, a unemployed man who cuts himself every month and an 8-year-old boy who drank bleach after his mother told him her life was a misery because he’d been born; these are all examples of different ways that men and boys self-harm.

Friday 1st March is Self Injury Awareness Day and to highlight this fact we are looking the male experience of self-harm by taking a brief look at three short cases studies:

1. An 8-year-old boy, who was conceived when his mother was raped, was brought up by his mother and a stepfather whom the mother quickly married to avoid the shame of an illegitimate child. The boy was nevertheless called ‘the bastard’ by the stepfather, who also repeatedly sexually abused the boy from when he was about 4 years old. The mother was subject to frequent episodes of domestic violence at the hands of the pathologically jealous stepfather who attacked her for having a child by another man. The mother became depressed and began drinking heavily to ‘escape’ the beatings. When very drunk, the mother told the boy that her life was a misery and it was all because he had been born. In desperation the boy drank a bottle of bleach believing this would kill him and save his mother. He survived and was diagnosed as being depressed.

2. A 19-year-old student who has no previous history of mental health problems or of self-harm. Towards the end of a party the young man, who had drunk 8 cans of lager, had an argument with his partner, went into the bathroom and swallowed a handful of aspirin tablets. He almost immediately regretted his action and told a friend who phoned for an ambulance which took him to the local emergency department.

3. A 22-year-old unemployed man who was raised in a series of children’s homes. He was subjected to repeated abuse as a child and has a history of substance misuse. He has cut his arms since the age of 14 at an average frequency of about once every three weeks. This gives him relief from intense feelings of emptiness and despair. He presents to an emergency department for the third time in a month with superficial cuts to his forearm. He does not describe persisting low mood.

The above case studies are taken from Self-Harm: The short-term physical and psychological management and secondary prevention of self-harm in primary and secondary care National Clinical Practice Guideline Number 16 commissioned by the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence produced by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health and published by The British Psychological Society and The Royal College of Psychiatrists.



Tuesday, 26 February 2013

10 Facts About Men And Boys Who Self-Harm

It's Self Injury Awareness Day this week (Friday 1st March) and so we'll be sharing some information on the male experience of Self Harm. First up, 10 facts about men and boys who Self Harm. 

1. More than 200 boys and young men under 25 are admitted to hospital for intentional self-harm every week in England (Source: Department of Health 2010/2011)


2. Boys under 10 are more likely to self-harm that girls under 10 (Source: BBC News)

3. Self-harm amongst boys and young men is on the rise. Rates of deliberate self-harm among boys and young have almost doubled since the 1980s (Source: NSPCC)

4. People who self-harm are 50 - 100 times more likely to kill themselves (Source: NICE

5. Men who self-harm are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as women who self-harm (Source: Royal College of Psychiatrists

6. Teenage boys (15-17 year olds) who self-harm are twice as likely to be under the influence of alcohol at the time compared with girls. (Source: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland

7. Teenage boys (15-17 year olds) who self-harm are nearly five times as likely to be under the influence of an illegal drug at the time compared with girls. (Source: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland)

8. Boys and young men are thought to be more likely to hide self-harm. They are more likely to do things like hitting themselves or breaking their own bones so it can look as if they have had an accident, a fight or have been attacked (Source: Mental Health Foundation

9. Boys are less likely to access emotional support. Although boys and young men account just under a third (31%) of hospital admissions for self-harm in England, they account for only 12% of children who contact ChildLine about self-harm. (Source: Boots WebMD)

10. Gay and bisexual men are more likely to self-harm than heterosexual men and more than four times as likely to have attempted suicide. (Source: National Mental Health Development Unit

Friday, 22 February 2013

Helping Men goes international with Australian visit


Glen Poole, Director of Helping Men, has been invited to speak at The National Men’s Health Gathering in Brisbane, Australia in October 2013.

The Australian Men’s Health Gathering is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world and combines respected domestic speakers with a small handful of key note international speakers.

Glen will join two other UK speakers attending this year - David Bartlett, deputy chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute and Professor Alan White from the Centre for Men’s Health in Leeds.

Glen said:

“Helping Men is committed to having a global impact and we are particularly keen to build strong links in the English-speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and South Africa. 

"It’s a huge honour to be invited to share some of our experience and expertise Helping Men and Boys with an Australian audience. I am also looking forward to finding out what the UK can learn from the Australians who have been great innovators and pioneers when it comes to new approaches to Helping Men.”

The theme of this year's conference is "Blazing A Trail: To Healthier Men And Communities". To find out more about the Men’s Health Gathering see the Working With Men website. To see Glen in action check on this 10 minute TEDx talk delivered at the London School of Economics in 2012.  

Saturday, 16 February 2013

We need to give men the words to talk about domestic violence


We need to make it easier for men to talk about domestic violence if we are to help more male victims get help. 

It may be commonplace for professionals and practitioners to refer to ‘domestic violence’, but do men who are victims of domestic violence, think what has happened to them can be described as such?

The definitions and words that male victims of domestic violence use are of importance to those of us who are working to help more male victims get help. If the vocabulary we use is different from the language male victims use, this could present a barrier to men getting help. 

According to Home Office research, where victims name the incident as domestic violence, there is a greater likelihood that they will seek help. 

Male victims are twice as likely to not classify what has happened to them as domestic violence, with two thirds (66%) of men who were victims in the past year not labeling the incident domestic violence.

Male victims are also less likely to call the domestic violence that has happened to them a crime, even when this is legally the case. This is most clear in instances of domestic violence where the man is injured, with 90 per cent of male victims who suffer minor injuries not labeling the event a crime.

Male victims are also 6 times less likely to describe the worst incident of domestic violence in the past year a crime, with only 6% of those assaulted in the past year describing the incident as a criminal act.

And while 84% of female victims say that the worst incident in their lifetime was either a crime or wrong, the same is true of only 41% of male victims with men being nearly 4 times as likely to dismiss the worst incident as “just something that happens” (49% compared with 13%).

Taking all this into account it is perhaps not surprising that the police only find out about the worst incident in 8% of cases in the past year for male victims, compared with 20% of cases for female victims.

With two-thirds of male victims telling no-one about what's happening it is essential for front-line professionals to to do two things:

1) We must tackle our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys and continue to raise awareness of that the abuse of men in intimate relationship is called domestic violence, is unacceptable and is a crime

2) We must also recognize that many male victims won't use this language to describe what is happening and so we must find different ways of helping men to come forward and start a conversation about the violence and abuse that has happened to them. 

SOURCE: The statistics in this post are drawn for the Home Office Research Study 276: Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey (Sylvia Walby and Jonathan Allen, Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, March 2004)


50 MPs back HPV vaccine for boys

Nearly 50 MPs have given their backing to calls to give the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to boys as well as girls.

There is a strong link between the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cancer of the throat, penis, anus and cervix.

Girls aged 12-13 in the UK are already vaccinated against HPV to help prevent cervical cancer but not boys.

The Australian government, which has been vaccinating girls since 2007, recently became the first country to publicly fund HPV vaccination for boys.

Now the recently founded Throat Cancer Foundation is leading a campaign to extend the HPV vaccine to boys in the UK.  

The Throat Cancer Foundation has secured the backing of 47 MPs so far and is encouraging people to write to their MP and ask them to sign an Early Day Motion calling for the HPV vaccine to be made gender neutral. 

If you want to write to your MP about this issue you do so by email via the Throat Cancer Foundation website

Friday, 15 February 2013

"I had an eating disorder" male MP tells parliament


The Conservative MP for Braintree, Brooks Newmark, has spoken out in parliament about having an eating disorder as a teenager. 

He developed the disorder while at boarding school when he felt under "enormous pressure" he said during a debate that reminds us to Remember Men During Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Mr Newmark said he received no support from his school and was teased by his fellow students. "Boarding schools in the 70s weren't exactly sympathetic to young boys who had problems," he added.

The experience had made him realise that "unless the mind is healed, you're never going to heal the body" and that GPs were still not "up to speed" on identifying eating disorders and that teachers and parents needed better education on spotting symptoms, he said.

"Mental healthcare is the orphan when it comes to healthcare in this country and there are many forms of mental illness, but this is a mental health issue" he added.

Thanks to the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too for sharing this story on Facebook. A spokesperson for the charity said: 

"We congratulate Me Newmark for bravely speaking out to his peers and in public. This is never easy but a crucial step in alleviating the barriers and shattering the stigma that still surrounds eating disorders."

You can read more on this story at the BBC website and for further information on men and eating disorders see our post Remember Men During Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Parents with disabled kids do better when dad's involved

One of the lesser know inequalities that disabled children face is that their parents are more likely to separate, which means that disabled boys and girls get less dad time on average.

New research from Australia has found that mums taking part in interventions to help them cope with children with learning disabilities and behavioural problems got more out of the programme when dad was involved.

The research focused on The Signposts programme which is designed to help families develop strategies to manage or prevent difficult behaviour, encourage appropriate behaviour and teach children new skills.

The research evaluated how well 483 mothers who too the programme without fathers and 134 mothers who took part with dad to see if the father's involvement made a notable difference.

The results showed that mothers in both groups benefitted from the intervention across all measures and the improvement was notably larger for mothers who participated in Signposts with fathers.  

The research is an important reminder to professionals working with families with disabled children to take action to involve fathers. 

Thanks to the Fatherhood Institute in the UK for flagging up this. You can read more about the research here 

The Picture used to illustrate this story shows James Melville Ross and his family. You can read more about his experience in the BBC's disability dads blog series.

Tragedy Of Brain Injured Boys Stuck In Justice System

Hundreds of boys with brain injuries and neurological conditions are being drawn needlessly into youth custody according to a report by the Children's Commissioner, who has described the problem as a "tragedy".

The study found that as many as three quarters of young offenders in custody have a traumatic brain injury. It highlights that although the symptoms of brain injuries are often no spotted, they can make boys more likely to offend because of factors like hyperactivity, impulsivity, communication difficultire and feelings of alienation 

The report also found that between 60 and 90 per cent of young offenders have speech and language difficulties and one in 10 have an autistic spectrum disorder. 

The Children's commissioner Maggie Atkinson said: "Our failure to identify neurodevelopmental disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy".

Amongst the recommendations in the report is that staff in education, family intervention projects, social services and primary health care settings should be provided with training and support to understand issues relating to neurodisability and refer children to relevant specialist services. 

The report also called on the Youth Justice Board, Department of Health and local youth justice agencies to ensure that young people with neurodevelopmental disorders are diverted out of the youth justice system.

See more on this story at the Children and Young People Now website. 

Research reveals mental health link to male domestic violence victims


Professionals working with male mental health patients may be interested to learn about new research on the connection between men’s mental health and their risk of being a victim of domestic violence.

The research from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry in collaboration with the University of Bristol reviewed data from 41 studies worldwide and found that men with mental disorders were as much as 8 times as likely to be victims of domestic violence.

According to the report, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), little is known about the extent to which being a victim of domestic violence is associated with different mental disorders in men

Prolonged exposure to threatening life events, including domestic violence, is associated with the onset, duration and recurrence of mental disorders and both men and women with mental disorders are at an increased risk of experiencing violence.

The researchers found that studies reported increased odds for men for all diagnostic categories, including psychoses. There is also a high prevalence and increased likelihood of being a victim of domestic violence in men across all diagnostic categories, compared to people without disorders.

Men with anxiety disorders were significantly more likely to have experienced lifetime physical partner violence than those without a mental disorder, with 3 out of 4 men (74%) with anxiety disorders reporting being victims of domestic violence during their lifetime.

Data from one large US National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions suggested that men with bipolar affective disorder were more than eight times more likely to report ever having been a victim of partner violence than people with no mental disorder

In 2007 a national survey of 7,047 UK householders reported an increased odds of any past year partner violence amongst 11.7% men with common mental disorders (CMD) with an incidence rate of 2.7% men in the general population (2008/09 British Crime Survey) making them more than 4 times as likely to experience domestic violence

According to researchers a bi-directional causal relationship between domestic violence and mental disorder seems likely which means that as well as domestic violence causing mental health problems in me, the presence of mental health problems puts men at a greater risk of being a victim of violence.

The report concluded that longitudinal studies are needed to identify pathways to being a victim of domestic violence to optimise healthcare responses for both male and female victims.

European Healthy Stadia Conference Comes To UK


The 2013 European Healthy Stadia Conference will be held at the Etihad Stadium home of Manchester City FC on 21st March 2013. 

The event will bring together decision makers from sports clubs, stadia, sports governing bodies, health agencies across Europe, including chief executives, facilities managers, corporate communications, catering managers, community foundation staff and CSR managers.

Owing to the cross-cutting themes of sport, health and social responsibility, the conference is open to practitioners from a broad range of fields including public health.

The event is particularly timely in light of the NHS Confederation's recent report calling on the 'new NHS' to to use sport to improve health and wellbeing.

To find out more about the conference see the Healthy Stadia website and to read more about sport and health see our post on the NHS Sport and Health report.



Sport must take centre stage in NHS health plans


It is crucial for the ‘new NHS’ to use sport to improve health and wellbeing according to a new report from the NHS Confederation.

We owe a special thanks to James Howes, Health Officer at Warrington Wolves Foundation for bringing this to our attention.

According to the report - called Sport and Health a Winning Team  sport provides an unrivalled opportunity to make a lasting difference to the whole nation's physical and mental wellbeing – which is a priority for members of the new health and wellbeing boards, including local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and local Healthwatch.

The proven advantages of increased physical activity on physical and mental wellbeing makes the sports-health nexus a crucial area for the new NHS to tap into, says the report.

And the potential economic benefits of getting one million more people across the country playing sport each week, would be savings to the taxpayer £22.5 billion in health and associated costs according to Sport England

The report highlights the benefits of sport in improving the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing and aims to support NHS providers, commissioners and those with public health responsibilities to harness the opportunities provided by sport to improve the health of local populations

The report also highlights benefits to be had by engaging with sport as a way of ‘nudging’ participants towards health-enhancing behaviour.

The authors are hopeful that there will be a lasting legacy of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games through increased uptake in people engaging in sport and other forms of physical recreation which in turn can combat health issues caused by increasingly sedentary lifestyles

The report also highlights how sports clubs can use their relationship with fans to attract them to wellbeing-related activities and flags us the opportunity presented by the fact that most major sporting stadia are situated within the most deprived communities.

The involvement of sport in improving health goes beyond increasing participation in sport and can involve promoting health and wellbeing messages with specific programmes on healthy eating, being more active, self-esteem, mental wellbeing. 

Some sports clubs have also become involved in tackling broader social issues such as avoiding the dangers of drugsand knife crime, supporting the local unemployed and working with older people who have become isolated.

Sports clubs can be particularly effective at reaching audiences who may be disengaged from mainstream health promotion activities.

The report also highlights work to improve the health of NHS staff through the 
NHS Sport and Physical Activity Challenge which is part of the wider NHS Sport and Health programme. It is specifically aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of NHS staff through sport and physical activity.

Taking into account  the importance of improving physical and mental wellbeing in order to fulfill the NHS Mandate, the report’s authors conclude that the health benefits of sport and the vast opportunities presented by sporting organisations “must now take centre stage”.

The report, which you can download at the following link – Sport and Health Report - includes a number of case studies and references to good practice including:

For more information on sport and health see the following posts: