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Exploring masculinity, experience of distress and help-seeking within a UK male prison

  • Taanvi Ramesh1,*,
  • Michael Mercieca2
  • Helen Valerie Curran1
  • Jarrod Cabourne1,2

1University College London, WC1E 6BT London, UK

2Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, NW1 0PE London, UK

DOI: 10.22514/jomh.2023.134 Vol.19,Issue 12,December 2023 pp.87-98

Submitted: 30 July 2023 Accepted: 04 September 2023

Published: 30 December 2023

*Corresponding Author(s): Taanvi Ramesh E-mail: taanvi.ramesh@nhs.net

Abstract

Men’s prisons are theorised to perpetuate, if not heighten, masculine ideals. Research indicates that prisoners have high rates of mental health difficulties, but treatment uptake is low. This empirical study aimed to understand the prevalence of conformity to masculine norms amongst prisoners and how this shapes, and relates to, experiences of psychological distress and help-seeking. We hypothesised that conformity to masculine norms would be negatively correlated with help-seeking intentions and positively correlated with psychological distress. A mixed-methods approach was used with prisoners recruited from a Category C men’s prison in the UK. In Part 1, 109 prisoners completed three questionnaires assessing conformity to masculine norms, psychological distress and help-seeking intentions. Correlation analyses and group comparisons were conducted to determine associations between variables. In Part 2, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 6 prisoners who participated in Part 1. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to develop themes and sub-themes to understand how masculinity shapes experiences of distress and help-seeking in prison. As hypothesised, Part 1 found a negative correlation between conformity to masculine norms, particularly Emotional Control, and help-seeking intentions, as well as a positive correlation between conformity to masculine norms and psychological distress amongst prisoners. Thematic analysis in Part 2 highlighted themes of Holding it in, Image and perception and Control for prisoners. These findings support the understanding of prisons as environments where masculinity is performed, highlighting a distinction between public and private spaces where individuals’ conformity to masculinity is performed differently and highlighting some spaces where expression of vulnerability is permitted. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research, highlighting clinical implications and future directions for research.


Keywords

Prison; Masculinity; Gender; Help-seeking; Psychological distress; Homosociality


Cite and Share

Taanvi Ramesh,Michael Mercieca,Helen Valerie Curran,Jarrod Cabourne. Exploring masculinity, experience of distress and help-seeking within a UK male prison. Journal of Men's Health. 2023. 19(12);87-98.

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