“… If you’re not part of the institution you fall by the wayside”: Service providers’ perspectives on moving young men from disconnection and isolation to connection and belonging

4 min

Background

As a group young men are reluctant to seek help for health issues, especially those of a mental or emotional nature. There have been calls for improved services to support young men’s mental health and well-being.

The literature suggests that aspiring to adhere to hegemonic forms of masculinity negatively impacts on young men’s help-seeking for mental/emotional health problems. There is also evidence that young men have insufficient knowledge about mental health and symptoms of mental health problems.

The high suicide rate among young men is also of concern and requires services responsive to the needs of this group. The attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of service providers are important to consider with respect to improving service provision for young men.

Aim

To investigate service providers’ (in Ireland) perspectives on the factors that support or inhibit young men from engaging in services targeted at supporting their mental and emotional well-being.

Methods

Qualitative methodologies were used; 8 focus groups and 7 semi-structured interviews were conducted with service providers most likely to be in contact with young men including sports organisations, youth workers, primary care providers, mental health organisations and GPs.

Data were coded using a grounded theory approach by 2 authors, with differences in interpretations resolved by the third author. Themes were grouped into primary and sub-themes.

Results

Participants indicated that their own views of mental health were more holistic than that of the young men they were in contact with who perceived mental health more in the context of mental illness only, illustrating some of the challenges in improving engagement between service providers and young men.

Conclusion

The data demonstrate conclusively the need to work from and nurture a positive, more holistic and strengths-based definition of mental health and well-being with young men.

This requires supporting practitioners to explore the world of young men, to work toward a better understanding of the defining events that mark boys and young men’s transition into manhood, to gain a better appreciation of the issues and challenges that they face, and the opportunities that exist for engagement.

The findings have informed the development of a Train the Trainer program (“Connecting with Young Men”), which is currently being delivered to service providers in Ireland and which may have implications for service provision elsewhere.


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