Why do we need men’s forums in the police department?
June 17, 2022
The idea of creating a men’s forum came up last year in one of the chief’s committees on diversity, equality and inclusion and the chief gave me the green light to start the process of creation of a new help forum. Essex already had a fantastic network of support networks such as LGBTQ+, Women’s Leadership Development Forum, Disability and Carers, Menopause and MESA etc, but we did not have a dedicated support network for 66% of male Essex police officers.
Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington understood that our force needed a male support network and that having one would make Essex Police truly inclusive. Male officers have their own unique issues requiring support and Essex Police have sought to value this alongside other support networks. It is of course important to emphasize here that the idea was not to have a misogynistic, white, heterosexual male forum. The forum is fully inclusive regardless of race, gender and sexual identity, membership and meetings are open to everyone. The forum is a platform where men can hang their macho anorak on the door and talk openly about topics that affect them directly and indirectly. To further encourage openness, we also leave our ranks and surnames at the door.
We launched the forum in September last year and have ambassadors in every department of the force, DCC Andy Prophet being our main ambassador. We have already organized several events since our inception dealing with some of the key aspects of men’s health and wellbeing.
- 75% of all suicides are men.
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.
- Every day 13 men in England die by suicide (I have personally known at least three male police officers who have committed suicide).
- The police rank third after doctors and dentists in the number of suicides by profession.
It often starts in childhood. Children are told that “boys don’t cry” and are told to “get up” if they show any emotion. They are conditioned from an early age that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. This is one of the reasons men attempt self-medication and destructive self-management behaviors instead of seeking help through established channels. There is also a higher level of substance and alcohol use among men, which is often seen as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Men are almost twice as likely as women to resort to alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is known to increase the risk of suicide because it worsens depression and increases impulsive behaviors.
Communication is a key element in changing this culture. It is too simplistic to say that women willingly share their problems while men tend to be delusional. However, it is also true that for generations, societal norms have encouraged men to be “strong” and not admit they struggle. Therefore, men are less likely to talk or ask for help while bottling everything up. In many cases, suicide seems like the most logical and caring step to take, because they believe their family and loved ones would be emotionally and financially better off without them. Although this is false, it is a common thought pattern that stems from a lack of support in the face of poor mental health.
Aristotle once said, “Give me the boy until he’s seven and I’ll show you the man.” It took me over 50 years to talk about the trauma I suffered as a child at the hands of a psychologically abusive and cruel parent. Deciding to open up and talk about my past has been very cathartic and healing.
We recently hosted a Time-To-Talk event where two of our members spoke openly about their observations and experiences. The first member opened up about starting the charity ‘Call 4 Backup’ after his friend and co-worker took his own life following the breakdown of his marriage. The other member talked about his recovery from a mental health crisis and how having the Men’s Forum gave him a platform to help himself and other men who found themselves in a similar situation.
- March was Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
- Prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the most diagnosed cancer in the country
- One in eight UK men are diagnosed with prostate cancer
- One in four black men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer
- If you have a close relative who has had prostate or breast cancer, you have a one in three chance of being diagnosed positive.
- In the UK, a man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes
- 400,000 trans men and women in the UK are currently living with prostate cancer
- There is no national screening program for prostate cancer unlike breast or cervical screening, however, if caught early, prostate cancer can be treated.
We supported Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in many ways. First, we organized a walk for men where a dozen of us volunteered to do 45 minutes of physical activity each day and raised money for Prostate Cancer UK. Our goal was to raise £1000, but we raised over £1800.
We also hosted a prostate cancer awareness event where a spokesperson from Prostate Cancer UK gave an overview of prevention and treatment. Our speaker was one of those who had lost their father to this cruel disease, and later was also diagnosed with it. He successfully overcame it through early diagnosis and his insights were fascinating and informative, highlighting why getting tested is important.
To further support our trans men and women, we have organized the CHAPS Men’s Health Charity presence at our headquarters to screen our members. CHAPS was created 22 years ago to support men’s health, especially prostate cancer. They participated with a team of consultants and phlebotomists to obtain blood samples for the prostate specific antigen test, which is crucial for early diagnosis. A total of 129 samples were collected and the anonymized results revealed two of them to be high risk, which were returned for further investigation. The cost of the test was just under £6,000 and was funded by our very supportive DCC.
We got involved in the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) campaign to show our solidarity and support for the cause. Since it was found that most of the perpetrators in these cases are men, we wanted to send a strong and powerful message as a forum of men supporting the campaign.
We are now planning an event to support fathers who have suffered the loss of a child. During times of such tragedies, fathers are often forgotten despite assuming supportive roles for mothers. However, very little or no support is offered to them. Three of our members’ families have lost seven children between them and they all share their experiences and offer their solidarity.
As former athlete and now motivational speaker Kriss Akabusi said at this year’s annual conference: “Nobody cares what you know, until they know how much you care. you.” Caring about men’s health is not at all misogynistic and at Essex our recruitment slogan is: ‘We value difference’. So, let’s appreciate the difference and also care and value our men.