What Makes it So Tough to Be a 21C Man?
Why it can be tough being appreciated as a man?
Why Do Men Die by Suicide so often?
Let us start with the last question.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2012 suicide ranks as the leading cause of death for men aged 15-44. Only 13% of men receive care for their mental illness. Even before we get to mental health and its fatal attendant, suicide, the current top 3 medical services under our Medicare scheme attract less than a third of men.
So what do the other 2/3 of men who are harbouring a secret illness do?
The statistics seem to suggest that they die, they die earlier than women and they die badly, in pain, alone, knowing that they are leaving behind their families, children, partners and all that unfulfilled potential.
For men, the perception of ill health, let alone mental health conditions is still largely stigmatised for reasons that are not fully understood. My reasoning is based on what I do when I get ill or am injured-just keep going. Even with a potentially serious back injury I still lifted up my chainsaw (the misuse of which, resulted in my injury) and limped along carrying logs of wood, even when I was in agonising pain.
Does not compute right? So why did I do it when it so obviously could have further complicated matters?
Deep down in the murky world of the male software that I run to define my notions of manhood is the subroutine that was never properly debugged, it says that to be a man you must remain intact, show no vulnerability, especially to other men, complete your task, fulfill your responsibilities, maintain your integrity by fulfilling the values and beliefs of a man who just gets on with completing the job, no matter what. If I do this I will be transformed, if I do not I will be destroyed by other men in the power hierarchy in which I define myself and destroyed by my own shame of failure.
Think about what it must have been like for early man to hunt woolly mammoths. What would you do to the man who drops his spear and runs, endangering all of your lives?
Sounds like a war or action movie? Actually, it is part of the “Heroes Journey”, one of the subroutine ‘myths’ that have guided men in their manhood since our earliest conscious days. This is why so many tribes have male initiation rituals, a kind of symbolic trial by ordeal that transforms boys into men.
Other family history,
hence the failure of current mental health services for men. Furthermore, the mental health strategies and policies in the country for each state & federally don’t complement. What are your plans to tackle this problem considering we continue to lose at least 5 mates, brothers, fathers, husbands and uncles everyday?”
Even in this modern world, where men’s ability to focus on tasks and solve problems has become an anachronism, all that has changed is the nature of the task and problem. We men are now measured more on our ability to relate to ourselves and others, to be both tough and sweet, to be both strong and loving, rather than on our ability to provide. At the same time, we are still required to ‘bring home the bacon’ even when the means of ‘producing the bacon’, the jobs through which men typically define themselves are now so easily taken away, and so impermanent!
The task of embodying such opposites requires us men to draw upon all of our intellectual and emotional resources. We need all the information we can get. Our intellectual and emotional resources, particularly the latter provide a wealth of information about our relationship situations for which intellectual resources, analytical and reductive thinking alone are insufficient. So if the task and the problem have changed so have the tools required to address them. We need this information to develop the right tools for the job.
However,men often reduce their problems, down to the tools they have, fulfilling the old saying that if ‘you only have a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’.
How different would it be if men could look at their problems, the condition of their lives and their definitions of manhood in all their dimensions and become their own tool makers? What if as a man who could make the right tools for the right job?