Issues of vulnerability are causing men major roadblocks throughout their life, which could include substance abuse, violence, custody loss, criminal records and much worse.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of deaths in the United States and each year over 40,000 people commit suicide. Statistics Canada reports that for every 100,000 people in Canada, 11.5 commit suicide, totalling over 3,000 a year. Suicide.org (501c3 non-profit) states “Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death.”
As of 2011 Statistics Canada reports that males are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women. The AFSP also reports that in the US men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women. According to Dr. Warren Ferrel’s research before the age of 9 boys and girls committed suicide equally, age 10-15 twice the amount for boys, age 16-19 four times the amount for boys, and between the ages of 20-24 six times the amount for boys.
As men are growing up they seem to be having a much more difficult time coping with their mental health issues.
Suicide isn’t a pretty topic. A lot of us have been impacted by it. Someone we know, a family member or a friend of a friend has decided that they can no longer go on with their life. But what the data above outlines is that men clearly have an issue identifying, seeking help, and resolving their issues with their mental health. What is clearly indicated in the data above is that for some reason more men than women are committing suicide. I mean no disregard to the impact of a woman committing suicide has on their family members or friends. It is equally as painful and equally a tragedy.
The American Psychological Association, stated the following in 2011:
When it comes to mental illness, the sexes are different: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men tend toward substance abuse or antisocial disorders, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
The article, titled “Study Finds Sex Differences in Mental Illness,” goes on to state that there is vast differences in the ways men and women handle mental health issues, general issues, and problems in their life and how treatment is handled for each. The opinion that I formed after reading the article is that women are probably more likely to be diagnosed, whereas I would be confident in saying that men, if treated at all, most likely do not open up as well, or as much as women, about their issues and choose to face them on their own, which often ends negatively for them with no diagnosis or support at all.
Lea Winerman agrees with me in her article titled “Helping Men to Help Themselves,” printed in the American Psychological Association Vol 36 No 6 2005. She states that all studies point to men being less likely to ask or seek mental health help or support when they need it. In fact an article written by Dr. James A Smith, Dr. Annette Braunack-Mayer, and Gary Wittered in 2006 titled “What do we know about Men’s Help Seeking and Health Service Use” for the Medical Journal of Australia concludes that men seeking anything health related (including general practice) is problematic and needs to be further studied.
We all remember our mothers telling us that our fathers never asked for directions on road trips, even when completely lost in an unknown city. Why? We didn’t know exactly why our dads wouldn’t work up the courage to ask a gas station attendant for directions to Disneyland (this was of course before GPS usage), especially considering our dads were super heroes in our minds. “Mom would ask for directions because she’s a woman and that’s what women do,” is probably along the lines of what we thought. “Dad will figure it out on his own, because he’s strong and strong means intelligent”. Little did we know that Dad wasted an extra $20 on gas and half of our day because he simply wouldn’t take 20 seconds, stop and ask for help.
In my work with local charities, discussions with the father’s rights movement, my “empowering fathers” movement that I’ve started, mentorship, and throughout the conversations I’ve had with some very inspiring men the past few years, I have come to the conclusion that the reason we don’t ask for help is because asking for help makes us feel vulnerable. Men hate feeling vulnerable. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it comes from being raised to think that Men should be able to provide and protect their family at all costs with no help from anyone. Or that previous generations have had a “Suck it up” attitude and said that very thing to us many times throughout our childhoods. I am in no way stating that I think everyone should crumble and expect entitlement to the struggles they face on a day to day basis, but when it comes to something major like your mental health there is absolutely no reason why you should feel vulnerable asking for assistance. Essentially, you “sucking it up” is you seeking help.
I am a man. I’m pretty proud of some of the “manly” things I have done in my life. I have tattoos and grew up spending my summers fishing, hunting, camping, and driving off roading vehicles and motorbikes. I’ve felt the vulnerability of asking for help. I know how hard it is. What I can tell you is that the results and the new outlook you have on life is that of brilliance and there is no way to really explain the Return On Your Investment.
The ROI on being vulnerable and seeking help is your freedom, and essentially enjoying your life. I am not stating that I was facing depression or suicide, or that your personal issue is directly parallel to what I faced, but a mentor cleared the path for me and a professional may do the same for you. No issue is too small. While you are thinking “There are probably a lot of men out there dealing with way worse than what I am,” (which is what I thought), you would be surprised at just how great a little guidance, in any form, can be to your journey.
In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, a book that I could not put down and read in about a week, she says “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up”. The book speaks volumes on how being vulnerable can change your path for the better. So to any man reading this who is struggling with absolutely any problem, I beg you. Show Up. Seek Help. In the end you will be a happier person. If you are a father, your children will benefit in the long run and you will truly enjoy the rest of the precious time you have here on Earth. I won’t ask men to stop insinuating that other men are weak when they show vulnerability, because unfortunately some of us are just too stubborn to handle that truth, but I will say that you need to separate those men from your circle. Focus on being supportive, attracting supportive people and appreciating those that love you and who support you through the process.
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