Inaugurated in 2016, Global Men and Boys Emotional Health Month is designed to help move , organizations, and individuals to effectively address and resolve male suicide and male depression and their underlying causative factors. We share Planet Earth with 7,759,096,922 souls and approximately 3,913, 749,293 of these souls are males – Our sons, fathers, husbands, fiancées, uncles, grandfathers, great grandfathers, brothers, nephews, cousins, co-workers, and neighbors. According to the World Health Organization close to 800,000 suicides occur annually and three (3) out of every four (4) suicides is committed by a male. Angry, depressed, suicidal, and spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally wounded souls who are males are everywhere – in Canada, South America, the United States ,Europe, Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, Asia, and Antarctica – in our families, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Why is the emotional health of Men and Boys important? The emotional health of Men and Boys drives their decision making and behavior — decision making and behavior which determines whether or not they will become productive and successful members of society. Men and Boys struggling with emotional, spiritual, and psychological wounds either “implode”- commit suicide or self-medicate through, among other things, food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and work. Or they “explode” — they “act out” their anger and spiritual, psychological, and emotional pain by engaging in acts of violence.
How can institutions, organizations, and individuals throughout our global village improve the manner in which it addresses and resolves the unique emotional health issues of Men and Boys?
The International Men’s Day Team offers the following suggestions:
Rethink How We Are Raising Boys. Boys – Our Sons – emerge from the womb with the same full set of emotions as Girls – Our Daughters. Girls – Our Daughters — are given the freedom to express their full range of emotions – particularly, their natural and spontaneous reaction to physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological pain When Boys – Our Sons – reach a certain age, they are admonished when they express a natural and spontaneous reaction to physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional pain. They are told that it is not “manly” to cry when they are hurt – physically, spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally; that strong men never need or ask for help; and that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. We must tell Boys – Our Sons – that expressing their natural and spontaneous reaction to physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional pain is healthy and not “unmanly.”
Resocialize Girls. As we rethink how we are raising boys — Our Sons — and ensuring that they feel safe to express their natural and spontaneous reaction to physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional pain, we must resocialize Girls – Our Daughters – to understand that Men and Boys who express their physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological pain in the same manner that they do, are not “weak” or “unmanly”. We must help them understand that Real Men express their full range of emotions, ask for help, and allow themselves to be vulnerable. The “safe spaces” that Men and Boys require to express their pain and vulnerability will need to be created and sustained by the Women and Girls in their lives.
· Rewrite The Narrative On Strength And Masculinity By Redefining Strength. Being strong is being vulnerable. When a soul is vulnerable they are standing in front of another person spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically naked. It is a courageous act. Only a strong person can and will allow themselves to be vulnerable. We must allow Men and Boys to express their vulnerability.
· Staffing Medical Clinics And Medical Facilities With Mental Health Professionals Sensitive To Unique Spiritual, Psychological, And Emotional Issues of Men And Boys. All clinics and medical facilities in all communities should be staffed with at least one (1) mental health professional who is sensitive to and can effectively address and resolve the unique psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues experienced by Men and Boys. We must ensure that sufficient social services and mental health resources and support services exist for Men and Boys.
· Address Fatherlessness. Fatherlessness and the lack of a strong and dominant male presence during a boy’s journey from childhood to manhood spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally wounds boys — Our Sons.. We must address this by, among other things, ensuring that boys and adolescent males have access to positive male role models –particularly boys and adolescent males who reside in marginalized communities. This can be addressed through mentoring, the hiring of male educators in schools in communities – particularly, marginalized communities where matriarchal households predominate, and Fatherhood Initiatives which move estranged parents toward one another and teaches them how to co-parent and understand that it is “about the child” and not about them.
· Engage Men And Boys In Conversations About Their Emotional, Psychological And Spiritual Health. Let’s engage the Men and Boys in our lives in a conversation – a real conversation – about their emotional, psychological, and spiritual reaction to disappointments, rejections, and perceived failures. Ask questions: “What happened today at school? What happened today at work? How do you feel about what happened? Are you happy? Are you sad? Do you feel numb? How can I make things better for you? What can I do to help you through the difficult time that you are going through?” Responses along the lines of “Nothing’s wrong,” “I’m okay,” or “Oh, it’s all good” are unacceptable.
· Recognize The Symptoms Of Psychological, Emotional, And Spiritual Distress. Emotional, spiritual, and psychological distress are manifested in behavioral changes. These behavioral changes can take the form of insomnia, excessive moodiness, loss of appetite, change in appearance – e.g., poor grooming and hygiene, and withdrawal. If the Men and Boys in your life are excessively moody, not eating, adopting poor grooming and hygiene habits, and not sleeping, it is a clear sign that they are not emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy.