Men and Mental Health
Over the past 2 years I have been involved in lots of events, talks, book signing, radio interviews, TV ect, all related to my books and mental health. I have been taking mental notes, noticing the people with whom I come in contact with and the gender gap that is present. I have to say that it is slanted 80% female. I know that there are men out there that are struggling and are to afraid to come forward. There are so many reasons why they do not come forward, I know them all because I am a male.
I have made so many great friends over the last 2 years and again the slant is 80% female, not that there hasn’t been a lot of men who I have had great conversations with, have broken down a lot of barriers and have come very close and built great friendships with, but the percentage is far to slanted to the female side.
To understand a male when it comes to mental health and what it means to come forward about a mental health problem stabs straight into the heart of the male ego. It attacks everything that our culture has put forward about being male since the beginning of time. These are some beliefs, to list a few. You must be strong, suck it up, be a man! don’t cry men don’t cry, big boys don’t cry, never show weakness, man up and get over it. Sound filmier? There are more, but I would run out of space to list them....
What is it about showing emotion, being a sensitive human being that is so terrifying? So wrong? Males will put on this mask and act like they are the toughest people in the world when they are falling apart in side. I know for me it was pure and simple, humiliation at it’s core. That feeling of not belonging, being and outsider, not part of a group and heaven forbid being laughed at or centered out. Being called a wimp, a pussy and so on. Later on when depression had it's grip on me there was NO WAY anyone could find out about my weak mental state...
I was always so concerned about what other people thought of me that it actually controlled who I was. Over time it just became a natural thing that showing emotion and heaven forbid talking about it was just a NO NO.. With drawing and keeping it all inside just became what I was supposed to do as a male. “I am tough and I am strong I will never cry and I will never be hurt”. This was a sign of strength and if I never showed emotion I would be a super strong man right! Wrong!!!
I would like to share a memory I have from when my child hood dog passed away.
I came home from school and I road my bike into the garage, my Dad was there, he had his back to me and was standing in front of his work bench. I parked my bike and said “Hey Dad” he did not react at all, I said “Hey Dad”, he did not move, I walked over to him and put my hand on his arm, he turned to me with tears streaming down his face and said Carrie is dead. I was in complete shock, I couldn’t believe that my Dad was crying the strongest man in the world just balling out of control, I started to cry as well because of my dog passing away, my Dad hugged me, I felt so safe….in his arms. That was the only time I had ever seen my father cry in the 45 years I knew him.
That day changed my life, I remember everything. The shirt he was wearing, the bike I was riding, every single moment is burnt into my memory. When I look back at it now it is still terrifying to me because of were I am now and who I am now. My father was taught not to show emotion, he went into his garage to be alone and cry, he was hiding his emotion. When I called him, he didn’t want me to see him crying, he didn’t want to show weakness. I had to pull on his arm before he turned to look at me and tell me our family dog had died who we all loved. He then held me and comforted me because my Dad was such a good father. This was a turning point in my life I had seen my father show weakness and I never saw it again. Even when he was lying in pain grinding his teeth, if you asked him if he needed something for the pain he would say “No I am fine Darcy” even though he was in excruciating pain. The tough male exterior never relenting never cracking….
The last signing, I had in Stoney creek a lady came over to my table and she asked me to sign a copy of “Creative Writing For The Mind, Body & Soul” for her husband. She told me that he loved my 1st book, that he reads it all the time, that he has come along way with his depression, even started therapy. I asked “where is he? I would love to meet him”, she said “He is over in the kid’s section waiting for me to bring him his book”. “He could never talk to me, he keeps his depression a secret he wants no one to know”. Even though this man is in therapy and is getting better he is still very private about his depression, doesn’t want anyone to know…
The male ego has been shaped and moulded since the being of time, ideals that have been handed down from father to son, over and over again. Now is the time to stop this handing down of cave man ideals, that if males show emotion they are considered weak, now is the time to turn it around and teach our sons that emotion is a wonderful thing weather it is positive or negative. Hiding it makes it worse, grows the negative emotions, builds bad habits and before long you think it is just the right way to live.
Being human and feeling emotion is what life is about, with out the lows there would be no highs. With out sadness there would be no happiness. Teach your children to feel emotion, show it in front of them and let them know it is okay. We have the opportunity to change the way males think of emotion, that it is okay to show it. Together we can break the cycle, we have a chance to change our lives and our children’s and save some lives in doing so. If you are a male reading this, take a piece of paper and write down an emotional point in your life that is burnt into your memory, write about it, feel it, it is okay to feel you won’t get hurt. Showing that you have emotions is a sign of strength never weakness!
“Only with open conversation can we break the stigma behind depression, lets start talking and do it together”