Andrew’s talk “Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails; Male mental health and counselling” was an interesting look at the factors affecting men’s mental health and the alarmingly high suicide rate, disproportionally impacting men in the UK, compared to women. Andrew gave us an overview of the statistics, which he said were quite possibly under stated due to the manner in which coroners can only report suicide as a cause of death, if they are certain the deceased intended to take their own life.

Andrew then explored the concept of “Normative Male Alexithymia” as a struggle to finds the words to express feelings, so experiencing the feeling, but not having the narrative to describe it. He discussed social conditioning factors affecting men and the seven masculine scripts identified by Mahalik (2003) , which can pressurise men into repressing their feelings, rather than reaching out for help with their mental health.  In breakout rooms, we were encouraged to talk about the scripts, how they resonated for ourselves and our client work. Andrew explained how a therapist can help the male client turn the negative into a positive, by acknowledging the restrictive impact, but also identyifng the strength and virtue of their scripts.

Andrew then discussed a “Keep Safe Plan” to help the client identify what factors increase their suicidal feelings and which activities (distraction and diffusion) reduces their score. This increases the clients awareness and empowers them to develop their own resources to reduce their suicidal feelings.

Dr Julie May