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International Men's Day 2022

International Men’s Day celebrates the impact that men and boys have on society, with this year’s theme being 'Helping Men & Boys.'

But helping them how? To live up to a stereotypical image? Far from it. It is about connection – both with other men and boys and with yourself. Across RAF High Wycombe there are many unsung heroes who, daily, are tackling some key themes, discussed here, that affect today’s men. They do not do it for reward. It is a simple passion to help improve lives. These are their stories.

Impact of COVID-19 on older men

Challenges of every magnitude affect us at different points our lives and the twilight years bring their own issues that can be just as stressful. The Royal Air Force Association recognised the difficulties that old age can bring and introduced the befriending service to act as a welfare check on those who often feel isolated and alone.

Flying Officer Peter became a telephone befriender during the first COVID-19 Lockdown in 2020. Online training was provided, and each befriender was given a list of veterans, mainly males, to call.

Elderly people often feel marginalised in society and feelings of loneliness and depression were exacerbated during the pandemic Lockdown. The call once a week was for many of these guys a lifeline to the outside world when no visitors were allowed.

Peter

Many from the generation that fought in the World War Two and subsequent wars keep personal feelings and emotions to themselves.

Talking allowed all the emotions to flood out – about enjoyable times gone by and positive memories of their time in the RAF. For many, the calls were a light at the end of the tunnel, and personal wellbeing was definitely enhanced.

Peter

Peter’s own grandfather saw the isolation as a death sentence.

But he wanted to continue to embrace life and you can only do that by reaching out for help. What I did made a small difference to improve mental health. You never really know just how much it means. It is mutually beneficial to both sides.

Peter

Due to the impact it had on Peter, he started fundraising for the RAFA charity, and completed a run of 46km over 46 days, raising over £400.

Visit RAFA website to learn more about befriending.

Men and boys wellbeing

Alex & Adam

Helping men and boys to share stresses and troubles is often seen as fundamental to improve mental health. Air Specialist 1 (Technician), Alex, joined the RAF Cadets at 13 and now, since joining the RAF at 19 is a Cadet Service Instructor & Training Officer at 606 Beaconsfield. Often seen as a teacher-confidante, encouraging his troop of mainly teenage boys ranging from 12-19 years old to engage and share troubling issues is key.

I like to think I am approachable, working in the background who is not just seen as the scary guy giving orders. We try and break down the barriers and say it is ok as a man to talk and share problems about growing up. You don’t have to bottle up your emotions.

Alex

The goal is to grow and develop cadets to help them with leadership and management skills – the confidence these life skills bring is seen in many of Alex’s cadets.

It gives a structure and skills they can use in civilian life like discipline, teamwork and commitment.

Alex

Visit RAF Cadets website for more information

A simple email asking for people to do warm up sessions and learn skills for a particular sport gained more traction than Air Specialist Adam ever realised.

Sport improves communication skills and team cohesion, especially when you have new people in a team. During the winter months people come to work in the dark and leave in the dark and can be quite depressing. Getting people in the fresh air is very helpful with fitness tests and is great for mental wellbeing as well as a confidence booster.

Adam

Lance Corporal Choc started playing football aged 8 and knows first-hand about commitment and determination to play sport well. From his village in Nepal, he had to walk for 11 hours to reach the training pitch. He has since played for the Nepal National team as well as the British Army and RAF. For Choc, sport taught him how to integrate with others and develop connections to make life-long friends.

Growing up in Nepal the training was done in a very strict manner which was never questioned, nor could you answer back. It could be very restricting and frustrating at times. As an assistant coach teaching teenage boys now, my technique is to teach techniques slowly so the players can understand.

Choc

Peter, Choc & George

A key theme in International Men’s Day is to discuss the issue of the negative portrayal of young men in society. Aggression is often tagged with the game of football and male youths.

If there is aggression on the pitch, I always calm the person down, speak calmly and encourage them to think positive, not negative thoughts. I often find then that the player accepts the direction. I encourage exercise and to gain knowledge from anywhere you can. Sport is excellent for the mind and body.

Choc

Promoting positive conversations

For Flight Sergeant George, inclusion and belonging should be felt by 'Everybody, Every Day.'

It’s one of the Air Diversity & Inclusion Teams’ aims, and it is something I am very passionate about.

George

For International Men’s Day he has adopted a philosophical approach to the way men are portrayed in society.

For me, it’s a time to reflect. What does my gender mean to me? What does it mean to my family, my friends, my colleagues? How does this differ from person to person? How does that affect how we view or even judge each other? Does it influence how we value ourselves?

I don’t fit some of the stereotypes of being a man and I’m OK with that. (Well, I am now.) It’s easy to fixate on the expectations of others, and at times, we can be treated differently because we don’t live up to their ideals. I do feel lucky that I haven’t experienced much bullying and harassment in my life, but I’m very aware that not everyone has had that privilege.

George

As an ‘Everybody, Every Day’ facilitator, George encourages people to think about the assumptions and opinions they might make about others and the impact that can have.

Every session is different, but sometimes people arrive with the impression that D&I is not about them. The hope is that they realise through joining in with the discussions, that any one of us could feel excluded or experience negative behaviours. Equally, any one of us can be a good ally and stand up for those who need help.

George

An International Men’s Day wish for me, would be that all men could be true to themselves, and be proud (and safe) in fitting their own definition of what it means to a man.

Challenging marginalisation

Many members of society often feel marginalised due to their views or perhaps a disability and find it difficult to integrate into mainstream society. Cadet Instructor Alex has had first-hand knowledge of youngsters who may feel that they do not 'fit in.'

We had a young lad with Asperger’s Syndrome where we tailored the course to his needs, to make him feel more comfortable. He passed his exams with flying colours and now teaches other cadets!

Alex

Communication and appreciating the needs of others is often seen as fundamental to better integration of individuals who are often perceived as different.

Mentoring is often seen as important in helping young men develop into fully rounded adults, and Air Specialist Adam has acted as mentor to the junior ranks. Many of his team are aged 17 to 18 who are away from home for the first time.

I give relevant advice where I can. Being in the military for so long has helped me to communicate well with the younger guys. It’s important that I get them to assimilate. A more senior person who knows the ropes can help, in, for example helping the juniors to talk in the correct manner to the senior ranks. If I get the opportunity, I will help the boys become better airman and not make any career changing mistakes.

Adam

Male victim of violence

Male victims of violence are reported frequently in modern society and International Men’s Day hopes to address this as one of the core issues that affect men and boys.

As a teenager forty years ago, Flight Lieutenant David was beaten up by three other men in an unprovoked attack. It was a life changing moment.

David

I never want to be placed in another vulnerable position. I wanted to be able to defend myself, should anything like that happen again.

David

Starting with karate, he later found Ju-jitsu and gained his first black belt in 1993. This type of Japanese martial art primarily aims to paralyse an attacker using throws or holds. As a teacher for over 40 years, he is now Head Instructor of ‘Military Dojos’ in charge of other instructors. David is quick to point out that using Ju-jitsu is not about provoking conflict or being ‘macho.’

I teach defensive, not offensive techniques. My ethos is if you get attacked, be compliant and only if the situation becomes physical should you defend yourself. Be passive, then defensive. Get them off, then get away. It is not about gratuitous fighting.

David

David has been teaching his self-defence techniques across the country, starting at Cheltenham Ladies College, RAF Brize Norton, NortholtRAF High Wycombe, and MOD Boscombe Down and lot of his pupils are children and young boys. Pupils are taught discipline, bowing (to the ‘Sensei’ or ‘Teacher’) and being respectful.

It instills a sense of self-confidence, self-motivation and structure.

David

David believes martial arts can have a positive impact on wellbeing.

You can release the frustrations and stresses of everyday life and gives a positive distraction from any problems you may be suffering. I do not want anyone to be a victim of violence and especially bullying if I can help it. That is why my classes are free of charge. Above all, it may save your life one day.

David

Have you been touched by issues raised here? Help make a difference to the lives of men and boys in your communities; visit:

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