What or who do you turn to when you’re running on empty. Whom do you call when you need help? Do you know the signs your brain or body sends off when you need help? Has anyone ever asked you these questions? Perhaps yes, but most likely no.
Men, we’ve been raised in a “self-made” man culture. A culture that models self-reliance, isolation, and emotional detachment as the pinnacle of what it means to a man. We continually witness this in movies, magazines, music, and media.
As a result, we live by an unwritten “code” that “men are expected to be strong” and “asking for help is the last option, never the first.” Kind of like reading the directions for assembling the dresser, after we’ve failed five times trying to figure it out ourselves.
Consequently, men are more likely to suffer in silence with anxiety, depression, and isolated loneliness, but less likely to seek help. Over 6 million men are diagnosed with depression in America each year. Signs of depression in men are usually manifest as anger because men try to power or will themselves out of it. As a result, he appears to have an “anger” problem, which masks the depth of his depression and is often not diagnosed. To fight his feelings of helplessness, he will self medicate himself by overworking, alcohol, drugs, or pornography. This only adds to his misery which eventfully becoming unbearable. As a result, 79% of suicides in the United States are men.
Clearly, men are struggling and suffering, so why is it so difficult to ask for help? Because it makes men feel week and vulnerable.
This fear of being vulnerable plays out in the work of Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University. After 20-plus years of research, Dr. Way concludes that many boys, especially early and middle adolescents, develop deep, meaningful friendships, easily rivaling girls in their emotional honesty and intimacy.
However, we socialize this vulnerability out of them. Once they reach ages 15 or 16, “they begin to sound like gender stereotypes,” she writes in “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection.” “They start using phrases such as ‘no homo’ … and they tell us they don’t have time for their male friends, even though their desire for these relationships remains.”
When men do ask for help, it’s usually to deal with the consequences of their self-medication efforts, not the cause of them. I see men who come in for alcohol or drug addiction treatment, pornography, extramarital affairs, or high blood pressure, exhaustion from overwork. They like their family members think the addition is the problem, which does need to be addressed. It’s not the source of the problem, merely the symptom.
So how do we change this? Here are some recommendations:
- Mentor and model healthy masculinity that dares to be vulnerable, compassionate, caring, and teachable.
- Educate and encourage men to seek out relationships and community. Discourage “self-made man” stereotypes, which promote isolation and ignorance.
- Make more resources available, online communities, support groups, and resources that help men find hope, help, and healing.
- Challenge the media and men to recognize that remaining silent on this only increases the problem.
- Promote healthy role models of what it means to be a healthy man who is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually strong.
It may surprise you, but I see a therapist. Every healthy therapist usually does. I also have mentors and peer relationships that are a vital support system. All of these help me to continue to be the healthiest man I can be. However, I’m still a work in progress. But if I’m unwilling to ask for help, all the supports in the world won’t make a difference.
Have the courage to ask for help. You’ll be glad you did.
I hope today’s blog has encouraged you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs posted every Tuesday and Thursday. TransformingFamilies.org resources are designed to guide you through the restoration process of developing your heart, mind, and strength, enabling you to become the man God created you to be.
I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you want to improve your relationships, let’s connect through e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.