Masculinity traits a risk to WA men, says charity
The head of a WA suicide crisis centre has backed controversial new guidelines that denounce traditional masculinity as psychologically harmful, warning that WA men display more of the damaging manly traits than men elsewhere.
The American Psychological Association, the world’s biggest professional body for psychologists, has released its first guidelines for working with men and boys, generating a backlash and accusations of an attack on men in the US.
It comes after American wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, below, hit back at a British newspaper, saying it falsely quoted him as slamming a so-called “snowflake culture” and “PC softies”.
The APA guidelines defined traditional masculinity as a “particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk and violence”.
Lifeline WA chief executive officer Lorna MacGregor said men were three times more likely to die by suicide and significantly less likely to seek help because of their masculine traits.
“I would argue that the model of masculinity is even more pronounced in WA and the reason why I make that call is that 36 per cent calls to (help line number) 13 11 14 are from men nationally but only 27 per cent of calls in
WA are from men,” she said. “They are less likely than women to reach out for help and in WA, men are significantly less likely to reach out for help. My view is that all of those models, or requirements, of what is masculine is even more the case in WA.”
Ms MacGregor said the difficulty of getting men in WA to seek help for issues they were experiencing was a “continual frustration”.
“I think it’s to do with WA’s self-image, its isolated rural environment which does require independence and rugged individualism. It’s also to do with employment and a lot of people employed in the mining industry,” she said.
The APA said research showed traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — was, on the whole, harmful.
“Traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socialising boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly,” it said.
It linked masculinity to risky behaviour, such as heavy drinking and smoking, as well as violence, higher suicide rates and a shorter life expectancy than women.
The guidelines, released in August but publicised only last week, have caused a strong reaction in the US from those who argue it signified a war on men.
“We need to find a way of allowing men to be men but allowing them to seek help as well,” Ms MacGregor said.
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