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January 2020

“We need to redefine what manhood means” – Think Ahead participant writes for The Guardian

A Think Ahead participant from our latest intake has written about the concept of masculinity, and how it affects men’s mental and physical health, in The Guardian.

In his article JJ, who joined the Think Ahead programme last year, explains how what he terms “toxic hyper-masculinity” – the emphasis on needing to be strong and stoic at the expense of vulnerability and self-care – often has adverse effects on men’s mental and physical health.

JJ, who has written a book on the subject of masculinity, called “Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined”, also speaks about his own experience of mental ill-health and social isolation. He says: “I eventually realised that my issues with masculinity, and not having an outlet for some of these emotions, were part of the problem… For a long time I felt completely alone. There were no men I could speak to openly about this.”

These experiences eventually led JJ to train as a mental health social worker – a role that allows him to support people who are experiencing severe mental health problems. He is currently training with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust alongside three other participants and supervised by an experienced social worker.

In his Guardian article, JJ explains that he values the Think Ahead model’s emphasis on supporting people on an individual, family and community level. He says: “This is so important, because while working I’ve noticed how many older men, particularly those over 45, are socially isolated… There’s a certain type of regret that seems to come up, tied to the way they have expressed their masculinity in the past.”

“We need to redefine what manhood means.”

Read JJ’s full article on The Guardian’s website.