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The Men-Minds Project: Coproducing Better Mental Health for Young Men at the Margins

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


young man with lines representing thoughts from his head
This image was selected by the Young People's Forum for World Mental Health Day to represent young men and mental health. For them, the variation in the lines and the indecipherable nature of the writing reflect the complexity of mental health and the positive and negative thoughts that might go through a young man’s mind.

The month of Movember is drawing to a close. All month-long people around the world have been taking part in activities designed to raise money and raise awareness of men’s health. Oh, and also growing the all-important ‘Mo’. Movember describes itself as a movement for men's health. Since 2003 Movember has funded over 1,320 men's health projects around the world, changing the narrative around men’s health, shaking up men’s health research and transforming the way health services reach and support men.


Movember is something that resonates strongly with the Men Minds Project. Men Minds is a UKRI funded research project that aims to improve mental health research for young men by better understanding their views and experiences of masculinities, mental health, wellbeing and help-seeking. Men Minds is aimed at young men in Scotland who are refugees or migrants, or who are LGBTQI+, or who have ever been in conflict with the law. In this project we are working with young men who identify


with one (or more) of these three groups because we know that young men with these experiences can face additional challenges to their mental health, but also additional barriers to receiving the help that they need, and barriers to taking part in mental health research.


Men Minds is led by me (Nina Vaswani), in collaboration with colleagues across the University of Strathclyde, Monash University in Melbourne, and the Mental Health Foundation. However, at the heart of this project, and what makes it unique, is the group of young men who are working with us to develop and drive this project forward. These young men are known as the Young People’s Forum and they already have brought something special to this project. In total, 12 young men have contributed to our forum so far, and there is a core group of young men who have been turning up session after session (even in cold, dark autumn evenings and wet Glasgow weekends) to make their mark on this project, to improve themselves and their situation and to improve things for other young people too.


Over the past three months these young men have been sharing their thoughts, perspectives and experiences on all things young men and mental health. The young men are now moving on to use their knowledge and expertise to help us design a mental health research project with a much larger group of their peers. To that end, they’ve recently explored research ethics, developed some research questions and will soon be learning about and designing appropriate research methods to engage and include young men.


But back to the topic of Movember. The young men thought that this project, and movements like Movember are absolutely crucial for young men. Below are some of the reasons why the young men thought it was so important to get involved in Men Minds:


“I think it’s very important to access men’s mental health cause statistically we are much more likely to commit suicide or take alcohol/drugs.”

“It was quite exciting to see a research project about a topic that I could participate on.”

“We took part to be able to, hopefully, help shift stigmas and attitudes towards mental health, hopefully change services down the line, and to feel a part of something that could actually make a difference in our country or our town.”


I firmly believe that, with these young men leading the way, Men Minds may actually be on the road to achieving that.


To find out more about Men Minds visit www.menminds.org or email men-minds@strath.ac.uk

 

Nina Vaswani is the Research Lead at the Children & Young People's Centre for Justice and also the Principal Investigator on the Men Minds Project. Nina's key research interests are the experience and impact of loss, bereavement and trauma in young people and how these experiences interface and shape contact with the justice system. Of particular interest is the overrepresentation of young men in justice-settings, and how their exposure to loss, bereavement and trauma might shape their developing masculinities, identities, behaviours and outcomes. She is also interested in institutional and organisational responses to trauma, and the realities of trauma-informed approaches in practice, particularly from the perspective of young men.


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