The Future of Men’s Mental Health

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Part 3—Gender-Specific Healing and Man Therapy

            In Part 1, I addressed the questions, “Men and Mental Health, What Are We Missing?” Part 2 focused on the way that “Mental Health Crises Are Putting Everyone at Risk.” In Part 3, I will explore my own journey addressing issues that address the unique issues faced by men and how the emerging field of Gender-Specific Healing and Men’s Health is a key to the future of health care.

            I have become an expert in the field of Gender-Specific Healing and Men’s Mental Health due, in no small part, to the fact that my interest began more than 80 years ago. Prior to my much-anticipated birth, my parents were convinced that I would be a girl and had girl’s names picked out as well as an assortment of cuddly girls dolls that were popular in 1943, the year I was born. It took my parents several days to accept the reality of my little penis and to agree on a name for their new baby boy.

            At age three I announced that I no longer wanted to wear my white “baby shoes” and announced I wanted a change. My mother took me to the shoe store for my first pair of “big-boy shoes”. After perusing the store I found my shoes and jumped for joy when my eyes landed on a pair of red Keds. The salesman measured my feet and returned with a box which he opened carefully and good out a beautiful pair of blue shoes. I was crestfallen and didn’t understand the logic of his cheerful explanation. “Blue is for boys,” he told us smiling at my mother. “Red is for girls and we wouldn’t want our little man to get off on the wrong foot…chuckle, chuckle.”

            Bless her heart, my mother was not amused and told the clerk in no uncertain terms to give her son what he asked for and I danced out of the store wearing my beautiful red Keds. I reasoned since I was a boy and I liked the color red, then red was obviously a boy’s color.

            When I grew up and got married and our son, Jemal, was born on November 21, 1969 and our daughter, Angela, on March 22, 1972, my wife and I promised that we wouldn’t try to push our children into societal pigeon holes or gender-restricting boxes of what boys and girls must do and be. Yet, like most parents, it soon became apparent that each of our children were unique and different and that there were clearly some differences that seemed sex-specific beyond the obvious reality of a penis being part of Jemal’s anatomy and a vagina part of Angela’s body.

            After receiving a Master of Social Work degree (and later a PhD in International Health), I began specializing in work with men and their families. My first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man was published in 1983, followed by Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, and The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet.

            My work gained international success with the publication of Male Menopause in 1997. After working with many mid-life men and their wives, it became clear to me that men also went through a biologically based “change of life” that had many similarities and differences from what women experienced. The book was translated into fourteen foreign languages and I spent the next seven years speaking around the world and offering trainings for professional working with issues of midlife and aging.

            In 2002, I met Marianne Legato, M.D., following the publication of her book, Eve’s Rib: The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine and How It Can Save Your Life.

“Until now, we’ve acted as though men and women were essentially identical except for the differences in their reproductive function,”

said Dr. Legato.

“In fact, information we’ve been gathering over the past ten years tells us that this is anything but true, and that everywhere we look, the two sexes are startingly and unexpectedly different not only in their normal function but in the ways they experience illness.”

            The need for gender-specific health care is gaining increased support. According to David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),

“There are 10 trillion cells in the human body and every one of them is sex specific. We’ve had a unisex vision of the human genome, but men and women are not equal in our genome and men and women are not equal in the face of disease.”

            Dr. Page summarizes the importance of his research.

“We need to build a better tool kit for researchers that is XX and XY informed rather than our current gender-neutral stance.  We need a tool kit that recognizes the fundamental difference on a cellular, organ, system, and person level between XY and XX.  I believe that if we do this, we will arrive at a fundamentally new paradigm for understanding and treating human disease.”

Man Therapy: The Future of Gender-Specific Health Care for Men

            Although the research on gender-specific medicine was intended to be for men as well as women, Dr. Legato acknowledges that men’s health has been neglected. In a recent interview she told me that gender-specific medicine is not just about women’s health, but about the health of both sexes, the funding for our initial research came from companies that were focused on new health products and services for women.

            In an article, “Healer, Heal Thyself,”  Dr. Legato told me candidly,

“My physician father illustrated many of the biological and societal hazards of being male. My mother outlived him by a decade, mourning his absence every day. The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

            I first heard about the work of Man Therapy when I met its founder and creator, Joe Conrad in November 2021. I was impressed with the creative ways that Man Therapy addressed serious issues like male-type depression and suicide prevention. I invited Joe to join a new venture I called our Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity. Joe’s team helped us create a website and introductory video.

            The purpose of the Moonshot for Mankind is to bring together organizations and individuals who are doing positive and important work to help improve men’s mental, emotional, and relational health. Man Therapy is one of the best I’ve seen since it has been proven to be effective in preventing suicide and engaging men in improving their lives.

            “What began as a suicide prevention campaign has morphed into a men’s mental health campaign where the goal is to support all men before they are ever in crisis,” says Conrad. “We remind men that taking care of their mental health is the manliest things a man can do, that therapy comes in many forms and connect men and their loved ones to information, tools and resources. Our goals remain to bust through the stigma, increase help-seeking behavior and reduce suicide among working-age men.”

            In 2022, I interviewed Joe Conrad and wrote an article, “Man Therapy: Why Gender-Specific Health Care is Good for Men, Women, and The  World.”  Joe told me,

“Man Therapy was launched in 2010 and has had more than 1.5 million visits to the site. Visitors have completed 400,000 ‘head inspections’ and there have been 40,000 clicks to the crisis line.”

            That was impressive enough, but I also learned that the program had been evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study shows that men who access Man Therapy, as a digital mental health intervention, experience a decrease in depression and suicidal ideation, a reduction in poor mental health days, and an increase in help-seeking behavior. Additionally, the study shows that men in the Man Therapy control group reported statistically significant improved rates of engaging in formal help-seeking behaviors through tools like online treatment locator systems, making or attending a mental health treatment appointment, or attending a professionally led support group.

The Man Therapy Community and Provider Directory: You Can Join Now

            When I began working in the field of gender-specific healing and men’s health there was a huge need for services, but very few practitioners focused on the unique health issues facing men. The need continues to increase, but now there are many more health care providers. For the first time, Man Therapy is creating a Man Therapist’s Directory.

            Joe Conrad says,

“The Man Therapy team is excited to announce that their very own Man Therapist Provider Directory is officially live. Knowing that men face unique mental health challenges, our aim in building this tool is to create a first-of-its-kind network of therapists and providers that are uniquely qualified and passionate about working with men.”

            He goes on to say,

“By joining our Provider Directory, you can leverage Man Therapy’s thousands of unique site visits every day to promote your services directly to men who are actively seeking help. This listing includes your headshot or logo, a brief description of your services, and a link directly to your personal website for more information about working with you.”

            I was excited to join and I immediately signed up. You can see my listing here. Joe’s long-term goal, which I am excited to support, is to make Man Therapy the world’s leading mental health brand. If you are a mental health professional or know someone who is, you may want to learn more about Man Therapy.

            “Man Therapy formally invites you to be among the first to join our growing network,”

says Joe Conrad.

“Please click this link and follow the instructions for submitting your application. Once you get to the payment section, insert this discount code – mtlaunch50 – to receive 50% off an annual membership to our network as a thank you for all you do to support men.”

            This is a wonderful opportunity to get in on the ground floor and join this community of healers and those seeking to improve their own health. Stay tuned for more articles that will explore additional issues about the importance of men’s mental health. If you are not already receiving my free weekly newsletter you can sign up here.

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