Male undergraduate students’ perceptions of male student mental health

WOLSTENHOLME, Claire (2022). Male undergraduate students’ perceptions of male student mental health. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Research has continuously highlighted gender differences in how mental health is experienced, with findings revealing that men are less likely to recognise (Ellis, 2018), disclose, (Doherty and O'Doherty 2010,) or seek support for mental ill-health (Mental Health Foundation, 2016). Potential reasons for this reluctance in men, are equally well theorised, with issues of stigma (Frend 2016), and health services being 'inherently feminised' (Morison et al, 2014) postulated. Less research exists on overcoming barriers to male help-seeking, particularly in the student population. Undergraduate students are typically at an age of likely onset of common mental ill-health (Kessler et al, 2007), and moreover face a multitude of stressors, such as new independence (Tobin, 2018), coursework pressures (McIntyre et al, 2018), navigating social practices (Richardson et al, 2017), and financial pressures (HEFCE, 2015). Drawing on 16 interviews with self-identifying male, second year undergraduate students at one north of England university, this thesis explores perceptions of male student mental health, including potential causes of, and support seeking for male students with mental ill-health. A thematic, template analysis was undertaken on the data (King, 2004). Utilising theories of masculinity (Connell, 1995; 2005; Seidler et al; 2017) and gender relations (e.g., Schofield et al, 2000; Olliffe, 2011) this thesis explores identified themes, with quotes utilised to elucidate the findings discussed. The extent to which the university environment effects mental health is discussed, as well as awareness of, and barriers to support, such as bureaucracy, stigma, and males’ perceptions of being viewed as weak. Masculinity culture was a prominent theme throughout the findings. Participant views on whether support should be gender specific are also discussed. Findings showed an overwhelming preference by male undergraduate students for face-to-face support. Participants also emphasised the need for individualised support for (male) students, with no ‘one size fits all’ approach, supporting gender relation theorists’ assertions of the need to move away from a singular understanding of masculine norms. Findings point to a need to change the narrative around male mental health and to view masculinity as a diverse pattern of behaviour which can be individualistic. Evidence is uncovered that males can be harmed by unhelpful judgements and expectations of what masculinity should look like, as well as assumptions of innate privilege based on gender. Findings from this research could have implications for university mental health services, to better understand male mental health, including when, why and how men access support. Moreover, understanding the specific male student lived experiences, could help with more effective 'gender sensitive', (as opposed to gender specific), support for men.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Kellock, Anne [0000-0003-1148-3004]
Thesis advisor - Freeman, Lizzie
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Anne Kellock / Supervisor: Lizzie Freeman.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2023 17:12
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 12:46

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