Men's emotions under the microscope

30 September 2013

Jessica Keppel Proud moment: University of Waikato student Jessica Keppel is about to graduate with a Master of Social Sciences.

“I'm really looking forward to sharing my achievements with family and friends. It's going to be such a proud moment for all of us,” says Jessica Keppel, who is graduating with a Master of Social Sciences, First Class Honours from the University of Waikato in October. Having been in Sydney for the past nine months, Jessica is looking forward to coming home for graduation.

Research assistant

After completing her Masters, Jessica landed a job as a research assistant at the University of Western Sydney, working for Dr Andrew Gorman-Murray in the University’s Urban Research Centre. 

“My Masters supervisor, Professor Lynda Johnston, is a colleague of Dr Gorman-Murray and she contacted him to see if he needed an assistant. We met to discuss his upcoming research projects, all of which sounded fantastic, and he took me on as his assistant.” 

Rewarding position

Jessica’s job involves literature reviewing, editorial work, media and policy analysis, cartography, and report writing. She says it's a rewarding position, requiring her to always be ready for a challenge.

“I'm constantly learning and it's fantastic that my research interests align with Dr Gorman-Murray's. I have been very fortunate to be able to contribute a chapter, based on my Masters research, to a book he is co-editing.”

Expressing emotion

Jessica’s Masters thesis 'Re-imaging the kiwi bloke: low places and axioms spaces in Aotearoa New Zealand' investigates how Kiwi men who experience anxiety and depression express their masculinity and emotions in different places: “in social spaces and in private, therapeutic landscapes”.

“I was also interested in how men respond to Sir John Kirwan's mental health advocacy - how they find hope in Kirwan’s discourses and how they choose to apply his strategies to their own experiences. I chose to focus on masculinities and mental health because of the stereotypes associated with the ‘typical kiwi bloke’.”

She says personal experience has taught her that men sometimes find it difficult to express emotions, and that they address their mental ill-health in ways they believe society expects of them as blokes, breadwinners or father-figures.

“For some men, wellbeing is achieved by occupying homely spaces, surrounded by loved ones, while others find comfort in isolated nature-scapes such as the beach or countryside or places where they can be active. People ask how a woman can justify researching men's mental health and I tell them that it’s the men’s stories that are the focal point in the research, not my own.”

Jessica will graduate at Claudelands Events Centre at 2pm on 14 October.