Two psychology students at the University of Dundee, Charlotte Elliott and Shauna Donaldson, supervised by Dr Fhionna Moore, have been looking at issues of emotional distress and suicide in Scottish men.
For her MSc research, Charlotte tested whether there are ‘macho’ stereotypes of Scottish men which subject them to greater stress and make them less likely to seek help and which, in turn, damage their mental well-being.
She conducted a UK-wide online survey which asked men about their perceptions of their own masculinity, their attitudes towards suicide, and their mental health. She also created descriptions of men which were described as being either Scottish, English, or Welsh, which were then rated for masculinity by UK women. She tested two key hypotheses: whether Scottish men differed from those in the rest of the UK in how masculine they viewed themselves to be, and whether women viewed Scottish men as more masculine than those from the rest of the UK.
While there were no obvious differences in how Scottish men viewed their own masculinity compared to men from the rest of the UK, women viewed Scottish men as significantly more masculine than those from the rest of the UK.
In a related project, Shauna distributed an online survey via the Breathing Space website which targeted men at the highest risk of suicide (35 – 55 years old) and who had experienced depression. She looked specifically at men’s perceptions of their masculinity, and how this impacts their personal experiences of depression and how likely they are to seek help.
She found that increased difficulties and fears about expressing ones feelings, alongside difficulties articulating and understanding one’s emotions resulted in decreased reported depression, which was the opposite direction to that predicted. Additionally it was found that the more likely men were to identify as successful, powerful and competitive, the less likely they were to seek help.
Overall, the results of these studies suggest that there are complicated relationships between masculine stereotypes, particularly of Scottish men, and psychological wellbeing.
Charlotte is now working on a PhD at Dundee in which she is attempting to understand the stressors imposed on men by society in terms of masculine stereotypes. Shauna has just started an MSc in global mental health at the University of Glasgow.
If you have any questions about this work, or would like to share your thoughts, please contact Dr Moore on firstname.lastname@example.org.