BringChange2Mind

October 27, 2010

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 8:00 am

When I was a student at Syracuse University, I had the privilege of being involved with a student group called A Men’s Issue that is dedicated to redefining masculinity and ending gender violence. It allowed me to reevaluate and grow and when I went through periods of depressive, manic, or psychotic hell, I sought help (or at least didn’t resist if it sought me out). That isn’t the case for most men.

We are conditioned to toughen up and deal with it. Whereas girls are allowed to hold onto their tears throughout childhood, men are scolded for crying and learn to bottle up their emotions. In elementary school, we are more likely to be bullied than affirmed when expressing emotional need. In middle school, it is a scarce few who spend those awkward years feeling like anything other than an outcast. If we are depressed and try and express it, our concerns were brushed aside as being frivolous because we are young. Rather than being taught how to cope and how to put our emotions into words, we were mocked for our weaknesses. As a result, we learned to mask them. We show no fear, no hurt, and no pain.

Men- think back to high school, suppose you had a crisis of any kind, did you have a friend or teacher you would turn to and trust with such a disclosure. Maybe…if you were lucky. In general, men are taught as boys not to value relationships. We don’t learn that supportive relationships are vital to living a rewarding life. We don’t form close emotional bonds with our male friends for fear of being accused of being gay. Boys who build relationships with teachers are labeled as teacher’s pets. We know what is socially unacceptable and we adjust our behavior to meet the societal norms. We never learn appropriate coping skills. Now, fast forward to college, fast forward to adulthood. If you are a man and you seek help, do you fear damaging your reputation? Women- do you know men who will reach out or simply too damaged.

Violence is born out of frustration. This extends to suicide. It is a resort to violence against yourself when you don’t see that other options are available. Unless we break free from the boxes that society has forced on us, we will continue to fail to potential alternatives when suicidal. We will continue to keep help at arms length. And because we are so damaged, we will continue to fall short as full emotional partners in relationships and friendships.

I spent this past weekend at a nonviolence workshop and one of the activists passed a long a song (that may be too touchy feely for some, but it works for me): “I love you so much, so that you can love you so much, so that you can love me so much…” In this case, unadulterated love is a great end goal, but for the time being let’s just strip our relationships and friendships of judgment. Let’s work toward an environment where it is acceptable for men to seek help. Let’s be intentional and transparent with our help-seeking so that we can serve as models for others. Together, we can make this the last generation of men that is conditioned to avoid help and bottle up pain. Society made these rules, it’s up to us to break free from them.

Thanks for reading,

Marc

August 30, 2010

Strength of Us, By Dana Markey

Our newest guest blog focuses on an amazing resource for young adults. Dana Markey, project manager for NAMI’s Strength of Us, is here to tell us all about it…

I am always excited to have the opportunity to write about StrengthofUs.org, a new online community and social networking website for young adults living with a mental health condition. This project is very close to my heart so I’m thrilled to share this valuable resource with the BringChange2Mind.org blog!

I know how valuable it is to find peer support and with that, the comforting knowledge that you are not alone. After an isolating and traumatic childhood, I was lucky enough to go to college where I started up a NAMI on Campus chapter, a student-run, student-led organization that provided mental health support and education to college students.

Through this group, I got to connect with my peers and exchange stories, support and hope with those who could understand. I saw time and time again how just one meaningful connection with a peer could change the course of someone’s life, mine included.

Yet, the reality for far too many young adults, ages 18 to 25, living with a mental health condition is that this kind of peer connection can be hard to come by. College in so many ways saved my life but even then I knew that not all young adults have ready access to a supportive community like a campus—a more universal space was needed where any young adult could access peer support and resources specifically geared toward their needs.

Thus, when NAMI received a grant from the Rodwell Dart Memorial Foundation to create just such a space for young adults, I jumped at the chance to become involved with the project.

As project manager of StrengthofUs.org and a young adult myself, I had the great fortune of meeting many inspiring, candid and empathetic young adults while developing and eventually participating in StrengthofUs.org. As part of this project, we surveyed over 250 young adults on their social networking habits, support needs and resource preferences. We also assembled a wonderful young adult Expert Advisory Group that advised us on all aspects of the project.

Since our launch in March 2010, the website is growing rapidly with young adults opening their lives, minds and hearts to help others by sharing their personal stories, providing mutual support and offering friendship to those in need of a listening ear.

Their stories reflect an amazing amount of resiliency in the face of adversity. One young adult describes how filmmaking saved his life during a time he was battling severe depression, another talks about taking charge of his life after experiencing delusional thinking and paranoia and yet another discusses making it to Harvard after overcoming debilitating Anxiety. These stories are only a snapshot of the amazing young adults who are on the site to offer lessons learned, hope and encouragement to others whose lives have been impacted by a mental health issue in one way or another.

StrengthofUs.org users are connecting with their peers by sharing their personal stories, creativity and helpful resources by:

  • Creating profiles;
  • Writing and responding to blog entries;
  • Posting to “The Wire,” a Twitter-like feature;
  • Engaging in discussion groups and chats;
  • Expressing themselves creatively by posting their original music, poetry, photographs and other artistic endeavors; and
  • Sharing videos, photos and other media.

Young adults can also access relevant resources on and talk about the issues that matter most to them, including:

  • Dating and relationships,
  • Making and keeping friends,
  • Doing well in school,
  • Living independently,
  • Setting and achieving goals,
  • Maintaining weight,
  • Overcoming negative thoughts;
  • Finding strength and happiness; and
  • Much more.

These are issues we all explore in our lives at one time or another, but StrengthofUs.org enables young adults to bond and connect over these topics rather than have to deal with them alone—it’s about strength in numbers so to say.

The over 1,000 talented, compassionate and thoughtful young adults on StrengthofUs.org are just the kind of people most of us hope to meet in our lives. They are quick to offer hope, strength and virtual hugs when others are having a bad day and to celebrate with those having a good day. If there is one thing you can take from StrengthofUs.org, it is that clichéd, yet ever so comforting reminder that you are indeed not alone. I encourage you to join this wonderful community today at StrengthofUs.org.

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