Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Achilles Heel - gone but still worth reading

Achilles Heel was a radical men's magazine published in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. You can still read many of its articles here and they're well worth a look if you're interested in men's issues.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Social worker helps father win custody battle

Social workers generally get a bad press from fathers' organisations but in an Irish Times (premium content) article (Dads doing it themselves) by Kitty Holland on 6th December, a father credits a social worker with the fact that he was able to keep his children.

David Donlea, a 37 year old Corkman, had been urged by his family and even by the GardaĆ­ (police, called to the house during arguments) to leave his wife. But he was unwilling to leave his children, a boy and twin girls, and in the end it was she who left.

She brought the twins with her and refused him access. But his daughters asked to see him and a social worker visited him to ask him to do so. At the visit to his children, overseen by the social worker, he broke down in tears and so did his daughters. The social worker helped him to apply for custody of the children and he won.

The number of lone-parent families in the Republic increased from 129,116 in 1996 to 153,863 in 2002, Holland reports. Of these, 20,834 were headed by a man in 1996 and 23,499 in 2002.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Getting Inside Men's Health - Report

The report, Getting Inside Men's Health was launched on 1st December. It is the culmination of a three year research study on men's health, funded by the Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children, and carried out in the South Eastern Health Board.

Key findings:
- Men tend not to be health conscious or proactive about their health For many Irish men, it appears that health has simply never been on their agenda. Sadly, it may be on foot of a `wake-up call' such as a health crisis, that they become conscious or proactive about their health. This is compounded by young men's sense of invincibility.

- Men's knowledge of fundamental health issues remains poor. Less than half of men surveyed knew what the function of the prostate gland was, while over a third were not aware of some of common prostate cancer symptoms.

- Three out of four men aged 18-29 were not aware that young men were at highest risk of developing testicular cancer.

- There is an overall lack of a preventative health ethos among Irish men Just one in five drinkers reported monitoring their own alcohol consumption.

- Three out of four men aged 50 and over reported never having had a Digital Rectal Examination (prostate cancer check).

- Just one in seven men aged 18-29 reported practicing Testicular Self Examinations monthly.

- Men go to their GPs reluctantly. Over half of men surveyed expressed varying degrees of reluctance to attend their GP, with women playing a key role in prompting `reluctant attenders' to go.

- Men are very often afraid to seek help. Many men expressed fear or anxiety about going to the doctor, with fear appearing under many guises. - silence, denial, procrastination, fatalism, the notion of a self-healing ability. It also appears that the fear and uncertainty of `what might be wrong' may pose a bigger threat to men's health, than the reality of ill-health itself.

- For many men, there appears to be a sliding scale of acceptability in terms of how they cope with different illnesses. The continued stigma that is perceived to be associated with depression for example, appears to prompt some men to `self-medicate' with alcohol, and/or to resort to violent behaviour, rather than to seek help.

- A `drinking culture' is endemic in Irish society. The `drinking man' continues to be upheld with considerable honour even by his more abstemious male peers. Half of those consuming over 50 units per week (i.e. over twice the recommended maximum limit), considered themselves to be `moderate' drinkers, while nine out of ten `weekly' binge drinkers similarly considered themselves to be `light' or `moderate' drinkers.

- Alcohol advertising poses a real challenge to men's health, in that it connects alcohol use with connotations of sexual prowess, and the achievement of optimum performance in sport.

- There was strong evidence that risk-taking behaviour is seen as an integral part of defining ones masculinity, and of `being a man'. The issue of male violence for example was found to be an obligatory way of defining and sustaining allegiance to male peer groups.

- Three out of four men surveyed reported adopting strategies of `avoidance' or `silence' in the way that they managed themselves through an emotional or mental health issue.

- Men associated an increased health consciousness with becoming a father. For example, two-thirds of all fathers reported taking fewer risks with their health on becoming a father.

The quantitative research study was carried out across the five counties in the South East. 570 men were selected randomly. The report was commissioned to inform the development of a national policy for men's health in Ireland.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Sporty women drink men under the table

People who play sports are likely to drink more than other people - and the trend is "particularly evident" among women taking part in team sports, according to a report by Eithne Donnellan in The Irish Times (premium content) on 1st December 2004.

But research by the Economic and Social Research Institute found that young men who play soccer, hurling, rugby and football also drink more than the general population.

The ESRI report, Sports Participation and Health Among Adults in Ireland, said: "This is a troubling finding since high levels of alcohol consumption are known to be related to higher levels of mental illness and depression, but also to other social and relational problems, as well as higher risks of particular cancers and stroke."More than 3,000 adults across the State were interviewed in the research commissioned by the Irish Sports Council.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Men's Health Forum in Ireland Website

The Men's Health Forum in Ireland website contains links to a wealth of information on men's issues and organisations in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. If you want to read Irish reports and research on the topic or to contact organisations working with men on the island of Ireland, this is the place to go. The Men's Health Forum in Ireland says it "seeks to promote, influence and enhance all aspects of the health and well-being of men and boys on the island of Ireland." If you're interested in men's issues, you'll get happily lost in this website.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Prosperity brings 400 per cent increase in young male suicides

Ireland's prosperity has brought a rise in youth suicide, especially among adolescent males, according to an Irish Times (premium content) story by Olivia Kelly."

Since 1990 there has been a 400 per cent increase in the number of suicides among young males between the ages of 15 and 24. This has happened at a time of significant social and cultural change and there is a significant relationship between the two factors," Dr Caroline Smyth of RehabCare told a National Children's Office conference. "Celtic Tiger Ireland" had failed to replace the "traditional Irish values" from which it was moving away, she said. "We have seen a move towards a more liberal, consumer based society. People are defined not by who they are but by what they own."

"There are very few role models left. There used to be the church or the guards . . . I'm not proposing returning to that era, but their loss has created a vacuum that needs to be filled.

"Teenage boys and young men seemed to feel the cultural loss more than girls, she said, according to the Irish Times report. In 2003, 444 Irish people died by suicide, of which 358 were male. Some 92 of those males were between the ages of 15 and 24."It's harder than ever before to be a young man in Ireland. The 'ladette' culture has meant that more young women are adopting traditional male roles and young men are experiencing an inability to deal with this cultural change."Young men also cite "helplessness" more often than young women as a factor that makes suicide an "understandable" option, the report says. Traditional research into the subject has failed to take into account the contextual issues of Irish society and treatment has been focused almost exclusively on medication, rather than the provision of support services.

"We need to put suicide prevention programmes into schools and the community not only to target high risk groups but all young people."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Sensitivity to fathers needed in family courts, states Minister

According to this report by Liam Reid in today's Irish Times, (premium content) the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mr Seamus Brennan, has criticised the family courts as insensitive to the needs of vulnerable fathers.

Mr Brennan was speaking at the launch of a report for the Family Support Agency on vulnerable fathers and their families. (For more on the report see Report to seek 'father inclusive culture' below).

According to the Irish Times report the Minister said:

- In some cases the family courts have excluded vulnerable fathers from access to their families when it is not in the children's best interest.

- State organisations, such as the courts, need to be sensitive to the role of vulnerable fathers in terms of assessments of their ability to care for their children.

- Fathers should not be excluded from this process unless there were good reasons to do so. "This might not have been the case in the past," he said.

The report, Strengthening Families through Fathers, by Professor Harry Ferguson, of the University of the West of England, and Mr Fergus Hogan, of Waterford Institute of Technology, recommends an overhaul of the family law and social welfare systems to make them more father-friendly.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Young men do best at driving test but most likely to die in road crashes

Last year almost 57 per cent of men passed their driving test in Ireland compared to 53 per cent of women, according to a report by Olivia Kelly in The Irish Times (premium content). Young drivers between 22 and 25 years of age are more likely to pass the test than any other age group, with a success rate of 59 per cent, she writes.

Yet, "the person most likely to be killed in a car crash is a man between 17 and 25 who has held his licence for less than two years, according to figures from the National Roads Authority and the National Safety Council.

"The youngest group of drivers, those aged 16 to 21 have the second highest pass rate at 57.4 per cent, but mature drivers, those over 26 years of age are the least likely to pass at just 51 per cent.

However, the Department of Transport claims the figures do not call into question the standard of the driving test. "The driving test is in line with European standards."The number of young males being killed on the roads is a problem and a common theme throughout Europe, not just in Ireland."

The test and the number of people being killed are two separate issues we don't believe that these recent statistics discredit the test," a spokeswoman for the Department said.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Report to seek 'father inclusive culture'

Social workers and the welfare system in Ireland treat men as "dangerous, non-nurturing beings" according to a report to be published next week, a story by Kitty Holland in The Irish Times (premium content) for November 18th 2004 says.

Main points from the report:

- "The overall orientation of welfare systems to exclude men [is] so powerful that even in cases of inclusive practice clear evidence emerged of men's exclusion."

- "The dynamics of such exclusion took many forms, the most common and powerful of which was a view of men as dangerous, non-nurturing beings."

- Social workers generally expect mothers to carry the burden of caring for children, "leaving the potential resource fathers have to offer largely untapped". The fault lies with the organisational culture of social work rather than with individual social workers, it says.

- Young unmarried fathers "are perhaps the most at-risk yet invisible category of all", says the report. "

- The position of men in public debates on teenage pregnancy is absent and negative as if the children had no fathers. "At its worst they are officially written out of the script of family life due also to the significant pattern of the man's name being omitted from the birth certificate."

- The fact that lone-parent allowance is only paid on condition that the mother does not cohabit has the effect of excluding fathers.

- Forty-two per cent of fathers interviewed were separated or divorced and all spoke of "the exclusion they felt by the family law system, including social services, which they saw as cruelly sexist and anti-man/father".

- "The children in such cases spoke openly of their desire to have relationships with their fathers."

Among the report's 12 recommendations are:

- Paid paternity leave.

- All agencies working with children should develop explicit father-inclusive policies.

- A range of support services, including parenting classes, should be funded for fathers.

- The family law and welfare systems should be overhauled to make them more "father-friendly" and give "due recognition to the rights of unmarried fathers".

The report is entitled Strengthening Families Through Fathers. Its authors are Prof Harry Ferguson of the University of the West of England and Mr Fergus Hogan of the Waterford Institute of Technology. They interviewed 24 "vulnerable" fathers, 10 mothers, 11 children and 19 professionals for the study. By "vulnerable" the authors mean men who experienced problems including marital or relationship breakdown, relationship problems with their children, poverty, addictions, survival of sexual abuse and/or domestic violence, Ms Holland writes.

The study was supported by the Family Support Agency.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Men's Health in Ireland Report

The Men's Health Forum in Ireland launched their report Men's Health in Ireland on Thursday 15th January 2004. The Forum claims the report "provides the most comprehensive overview of key statistics on men's health on the island of Ireland that has ever been collated."