Man vs. Support: How, why & when young men access support

Over the coming months YouthNet will be running three workshops with young men aged 16-25. Since this is the first time we’ve ever focused on men’s help-seeking behaviour online, I thought I’d capture some of the things we’re learning as we go along:

The Mix Staff
happy man

Why are we focusing on men?

We want to reach and engage with more young men online and in our community via our message boards and live chats. This is because we believe that peer support can really help, but currently fewer young men are using our services than women. So we recruited a bunch of young men to find out why this is, and what we can do to make these services more appealing to them.

What we’ve learned about young men’s help seeking behaviour so far:

  1. Young men want to hear from role models
    This came up a lot. People with personal experience of accessing and benefitting from support should be heard from. They wanted advocates, celebrities and real people to get their voice out there and tell the world that it’s alright to look for help.
  2. Anonymity is important
    Online profiles and your online presence are precious. They said they’d be happiest to seek support in a community if they knew they were anonymous and that it was securely moderated. They didn’t want whatever they’d said to be getting back to people they knew or to be ‘used against them’.
  3. There’s still a taboo around looking for support.
    It’s clear that this is a big deal – it’s seen as a weakness to seek support. It’s linked to the desire for anonymity.
  4. Most of the group considered themselves as ‘help-givers’ rather than ‘help-seekers’.
    We asked the group to place themselves on an axis of whether they see themselves as help-givers or help-seekers. They primarily considered themselves as help-givers, being there for friends whenever they needed it, however brief.
  5. They’d want men only spaces
    It was clear that they would be happy to seek-support and advice in a place that was made for them, had male peers in the community and was moderated well.
  6. Sometimes they wanted guidance and a little ‘kick up the arse’
    Similar to other project groups we have worked with (see our Employability site & Motimator app for more), guidance and a kick up the arse are just what they wanted sometimes. Life for young people is often characterised by uncertainty about the future and so the young men felt they needed a boost/gentle push every so often.
  7. They compare themselves to their peers. A lot.
    I guess this point might seem obvious, but they felt comparisons played a big role in their self-esteem. There was a lot of talk about being a different version of yourself around your mates, and how this isn’t always helpful.

What we learned about running workshops just for young men:

  1. Create an informal and welcoming space to meet
    This may seem obvious, but the workshop space was warm, comfortable and we made sure everybody felt relaxed when they arrived. We didn’t pressure anybody to talk or get to know each other right away – but our relaxed approach and introductions definitely helped everybody settle in.
  2. If something’s going well, keep going
    We had our activities planned and we managed to get them all done. However, some stuff worked better than others and we carried on with those for example, we had a ‘Get it off your chest’ activity at the beginning of the workshop which encourages people to just say what’s on their mind. This developed into a group discussion that we could probably have carried on with all day – and was full of insight, so we let it go on to a natural end and just cut short lunch. Don’t be pushed around by your agenda.
  3. It’s a hot topic
    We had a lot of applications for this project and statistics despite the fact that men don’t tend to volunteer as frequently as women. Their eagerness to get involved shows that young men want to engage in thinking about their status and role in society.

Next time…

This was the first of three workshops. The next two will focus on solutions to encourage young men to volunteer more and on what types of marketing campaigns would interest them. For more insights from these workshops, please check over the coming months.




Published on 26-Feb-2015