Change the conversation – Men engage, yes we do.
Men DO ask for help. We do confess our worries, our sadnesses, our confusion, our despair. If you think we don’t, then you are not listening to what we are doing. That’s right – listening to what we are doing.
I have been working for the last three years in upstream suicide prevention across one of the most isolated areas of Australia. In 18 months, I covered 35,000 kilometres. In one six month period, I was home for 28 days. I have worked with countless people and 50% of them are men, and almost all are Aboriginal men, and here’s what I know. Men do confess their worries, their sadnesses, their confusion, their despair. To continue the dialogue that men don’t is to pathologise us. And it doesn’t do us any favours. When I work, the language of “strength” and “weakness” is never used in the context of emotions. It is detrimental. Showing emotion is not a weakness, it is a strength. But I also don’t say that men who don’t show emotion are weak and you shouldn’t do it either. It’s corrosive.
I have delivered workshops around parenting and suicide prevention to men and the response, from men, at the end is “When are you coming back?”.
The truth is, if you create the space for men to feel comfortable to talk, and that means being trusted and trustworthy, they won’t shut up. They will talk with openness and confess what they don’t do as well as they should do or would like to do. They do so because they are not judged, and they know that they wont be judged and group work is the best mechanism to achieve this. Research even says, “When the groups consisted of six or more participants, it was men who did the most talking.” I’ve even presented on it internationally and nationally.
Have you ever seen a group of men with grins on their faces, laughter in their voices, telling you about the first time they changed a nappy or diaper? I have.
Have you ever heard a group of men laughing about the first time they tried to put their babies bottle together and lids gone one way and the milks gone the other? I have.
Have you ever been with a group of men and one of them breaks down because he wants to be a better father to his children and the other men rally around him, saying, “Yeah, Brother, me too.” I have.
Have you ever been with a group of men and one of them says “Sometimes I feel so alone, even though I have family and friends around me” and the other men say, Yeah, me too”? I have.
Men talk. If men are not talking to you, then you are not doing it right.
When more men take their own lives than women and men aren’t accessing your health services, you are not doing it right.
The first step in making it right is to stop telling us we don’t look for help. That we don’t confess our worries, our sadnesses, our confusion, our despair. We do. You just aren’t paying attention.
Change the conversation. Men engage. Yeah, we do.
This originally was written for The Good Men Project