On International Men’s Day, November 19, 2020, Gender Perspectives launched pilot: Men’s Anonymous Consulting Service (MACS) in Belarus. The objective of MACS is to provide psychological support to Belarusian men assisting them in dealing with their difficulties in family relationships, with friends and loved ones, as well as to help them through challenging emotional situations.
“Belarus society has strong stereotypes such as ‘a real man’ does not talk about his concerns, does not take care of himself, nor does he share his true feelings or emotions. To a large degree this becomes the root cause of many health issues,” says MACS coordinator acting interim, Mr. Andrey Golub. “According to the National Statistics Agency, life expectancy for men is 69, which is 10 years fewer than for women in Belarus. Men more frequently pass away from heart disease, more often commit suicide and crimes, and have a higher likelihood of suffering from work-related injuries and addictions.”
A large sociological study (executive summary available in Russian) “Masculinity in Belarus” preceded the launch of this service. It was commissioned by the International Public Association “Gender Perspectives” and was undertaken in the spring of 2020. It shed light on many unexpected facts about men in Belarus. For instance, Belarusian men reported medium scores for their self-assessment of happiness (5.98 on a 10-point scale) and life satisfaction (5.63 on a 10-point scale). They regularly reported such health issues as headaches (39%), stress (29%), and depressive mood disorders (26%). About one-third of men reported that they have been unable to discuss their issues with anyone.
Øystein Gullvåg Holter, a sociologist from Norway, has suggested in his studies that the life expectancy for men and women is similar in those countries where men actively participate in family life and chores. Holter found this is also the case when men are encouraged to express their emotions, to share their concerns with close ones, and to take care of themselves and reach their full potential.
The project “Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality Promotion in Belarus” aims at exactly this: increasing the life quality for men by launching the Men’s Anonymous Consulting Service. The project is a collaboration of the International Public Association “Gender Perspectives” in Minsk and a Swedish feminist non-profit organization “Men for Gender Equality” (MAN) in Stockholm.
“We think it is very important to foster a culture of discussing men’s emotions and relationship issues in Belarus, to question the stereotypes and norms of men’s behavior that harm men and their health, relationships, life expectancy, and quality,” says Ms. Galina Dzesiatava, Project Manager.
MACS staff are experienced mental health professionals who are trained to consult men online and via telephone. The service is for any man in Belarus who is over 18. They can call +375 29 150 11 22 or chat online via www.macs.by (макс.бел)from Monday through Thursday, 6 to 8 pm. All calls and chats are free of charge, anonymous, and confidential. Men can receive not only mental health consultations but also find a lot of interesting information on issues of health, relationships, and emotional wellbeing on the online resource www.macs.by. There are planned monthly online webinars with prominent Belarusian experts in the fields of narcology, sexology, gerontology, and mental health.