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“I’ve always been interested in how masculinity affects men and their mental health” – Think Ahead participant writes for HuffPost UK 

Men’s mental health, and the role that social workers play in helping them to address it, takes centre stage in an article written by a Think Ahead participant for the HuffPost UK.

JJ, who is also an author and poet, began training as a mental health social worker with the Think Ahead programme in 2019. In this piece he discusses some of the social factors that can negatively impact people experiencing severe and enduring mental health problems – such as paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.

In the article, which was written to mark World Social Work Day on 17 March, JJ outlines some of the challenges facing men – and how he believes that many of these challenges stem from wider societal issues. He says: “Society has yet to really carve out or accept a role for men beyond what they can financially contribute.

“Social isolation, social disconnectedness and feeling like a burden are also significant contributing factors.”

Read the full article on the HuffPost UK website 

In the article, JJ is also calling on more men to consider careers in mental health social work.

He said: “Men are underrepresented not only in this role – only 19% of social workers in adult services in England are men – but also within care roles generally, which are often seen as the duty of, or more naturally suited to, women.

“My role is challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding, and I think it’s vital that our profession reflects the people it helps.”

JJ also believes that better education and understanding around mental health issues – particularly those facing men – is needed to help tackle the UK’s mental health challenge.

Part of this interest stems from JJ’s own experiences growing up, which led him to write his latest book, “Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined”, in which he explores how boys often aren’t taught the tools they need deal with troubling thoughts and emotions in later life.

He added: “Social workers are incredibly valuable in mental health because we take a holistic view of each person we work with.

“Rather than looking at someone through the lens of their diagnosis, we look at the social issues that impact their mental health, what their skills and aspirations are, what they are passionate about, and what they can contribute to society.

“In essence, what tools they have that can help them to lead a fulfilled and meaningful life.”