Rewriting the Scripts of Men and Mental Health

My travels recently took me to a small rural community. Here, I was asked to deliver a motivational message to the countless volunteers who tirelessly gave their time to assist others.

I was welcomed with open arms and embraced with the warm hospitality that only a small tight-knit community can offer.

In my message I made a point of saying that as volunteers, it is essential to also take care of their own needs.

I spoke briefly about my own challenges with mental health, and stated that it was not a weakness to ask for help in times of need.

Throughout this piece on mental health there was a noticeable shift in the room.

The majority of the men appeared agitated and visibly upset. I felt like I was breaking “the man code” with this generation.

I stood there and felt the anger.

I felt the resistance to my message.

I struggled to get through the rest of that presentation.

When my message was finished, a man in his late sixties confirmed the energy I felt in that room. He approached with haste, and we united through a firm handshake.

As this man began to speak he did not release me from his grip. “I disagree with your theory Al.”

His eyes were intense, and I got the impression that I was about to receive a stern talking-to.

Uncertain how to respond I said, “I respect that. Which part?”

“When I was struggling I approached my Dad.

Do you know what he said?”

“No.” I responded. Obviously not.

“My Dad said, ‘What the hell are you telling me for. You’re the one with the problem. Fix it.’”

He continued. “Years later I was still struggling, and this time I approached my pastor. Do you know what he said?”

I had a hunch, but kept quiet.

“The same damn thing.” He said with an even greater intensity.

“So don’t stand there telling me that I am supposed to reach out for help when it’s up to me to fix the problem.”

And with that he released his grip and walked away.

I would be lying if I said that the response from both him and that audience did not have an impact on me.

I made the long drive home feeling rather unsettled.

Later that night after returning home, I opened one of my emails.

I drove away from your presentation thinking how brave you were for coming to our community to deliver your message on mental health and wellness. We are a very warm and loving community, but for the most part it is not accepting or open to looking at one’s weaknesses. Basically, it is a band-aid effect town.

I hope that tonight you felt a warm welcome. I need you to know that despite what you may have thought, your message was well- received. I know that a few years ago I desperately needed a talk like this. You never know who you are going to reach, and possibly even save. Please keep delivering your powerful message!

And just like that my spirit was lifted.

This small message motivated me to keep talking, and to ensure that the generations of men that follow will not have to fight their battles alone. There are many people who will take the time to listen, and offer their support in times of need.

2 Comments

  1. Keep doing what you are doing. I deliver Mental Health training to a male-dominated industry (mining) and it often starts off with a less then enthusiastic response. It is clearly on their minds, they just haven’t been given the opportunity to have an inclusive non-judgmental space to let down their guard and talk about mental health.

    One-by-one we can support those who need to be “heard”.

    Thanks for your article.

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