Category:

Mental Health

A new documentary film, Sensitive Men Rising (SMR), is turning its lens to the billion men who have largely been hidden in the shadows. Thanks to the breakthrough that we now know as “sensory processing sensitivity” (SPS) —popularly known as “high sensitivity“— we know men can play a pivotal role in changing the face and times of masculinity as a force for good in the world.

            According to the film’s director, Will Harper,

“Sensitive Men Rising, is a long overdue socially significant film that invites all of us on an emotional, educational, and life-enlightening passage. It asks us ALL to deepen our understanding of sensory processing sensitivity in men, and how it intersects with traditional and modern-day masculinity.”

            The film’s producer, Dr. Tracy Cooper, author of the book, Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul, says,

“Highly Sensitive People (HSP) seem to ignore the cultural programming we are all exposed to and, instead prefer to work out original solutions.”

Prior to the release of the film, June 16, 2024 (Father’s Day), Dr. Cooper interviewed me about my own work with Highly Sensitive Men.

            I also had the good fortune to meet, William Allen, author of the book, On Being a Sensitive Man, and host of an HSP Men’s Monthly Zoom Meeting. My own men’s group has been meeting for 44 years now. I was excited to learn that Bill is gathering men together from all over the world. You can learn more at TheSensitiveMan.com.

            I’ve always known I was a highly sensitive boy growing up, but I never had a name for it until I read Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, originally published in 1996, with the revised and updated 25th Anniversary Edition, in 2020.Based on the research that she and her husband, Dr. Arthur Aron, had conducted, Dr. Aron says,

“Over twenty percent of people have this amazing, innate trait. A similar percentage is found in over 100 animal species, because high sensitivity is a survival strategy.”

            In a recent article, “How Are Highly Sensitive Men Different?” Dr. Aron says,

“As some of you know, I have a special place in my heart for highly sensitive men. I really do like them. That is part of why I want to see this movie made about them. But what makes them different from other HSPs or other men?”

            Just as her research findings demonstrated that “high sensitivity” is a biologically-based trait present not only in human beings but other species as well, she recognizes that “male sensitivity” also has biological roots.

“First, Highly Sensitive Males (HSMs) develop under the influence of male genes, the main factor being testosterone. Gender spectrum aside, almost all HSMs (and men in general) are clearly biologically male.”

            Dr. Aron goes on to say that these issues are complex and we will learn more over time, yet there are things that we can say now.

“Of course, male and female behavior is such that many men do some things women normally do and vice versa, but hormones have to make HSMs and HSWs different in some ways. How do hormones interact with sensitivity?  We do not know yet, but they surely do, and we need to learn about it. Maybe that’s phase two of the research.”

            Dr. Aron also recognizes the importance of understanding evolutionary realities as we seek to work with this important, biologically, based trait.

“Looking back at the evolution of male behavior we know sensitivity works enough to be present in 20 or even 30% of the population and in equal numbers in men and women. That means HSMs have been successful at reproducing themselves, but how?”

            She goes on to say,

“When you know that you are highly sensitive, it reframes your life. Knowing that you have this trait will enable you to make better decisions.”

Early in my life, I always felt my sensitivity made me different from most of my male peers. Now, as a father of five, grandfather of seventeen, and great grandfather of two, I realize I’m part of a select group of males who have a larger calling in life.

            Based on her own research and that of others, she suggests that we look to the unique ways in which men are engaged with their children.

“We know human males evolved into a strategy found in some birds and in some other mammals, which is staying around after mating to help raise their own young. This method of seeing their DNA go on to the next generation contrasts sharply with simply mating as often as possible with as many females as possible and not staying around after.”

            If we weren’t highly sensitive before we had children, being an involved father will definitely bring out the best in us.

Bottom Line: Highly Sensitive Men Have S.T.Y.L.E.

            Dr. Aron gives us a simple acronym to summarize how this unique trait of High Sensitivity manifests itself in men.

  • S for strategic, or depth of processing in action, since males must act and keep an eye on other males, especially those who are more aggressive.
  • T for testosterone—you cannot explain an HSM by thinking he is more “feminine.”
  • Y  for wise yielding—to live to fight (better) another day and in another way, and yielding as in “high yield” investments.  (Yielding can be misperceived as weakness, but it isn’t at all—as when in the martial arts, especially judo [or Aikido], you use the other’s attack to defeat them almost effortlessly while preserving your own mental and physical energy.)
  • L  for leadership—either among people or becoming leaders in their fields, in the arts, science, business, athletics, or any field they endeavor, using their unique STYLE.
  • E for Empathy, which can be used in close relationships and leadership, but also in knowing, for strategic purposes, what others are up to, sometimes even before they know.

Examples of Highly Sensitive Males

            As Dr. Aron notes, there are a lot of examples we could refer to among the more than 1 billion Highly Sensitive Men in the world today. She offers one example from a Netflix series. Here’s what she has to say:

            “It’s no secret that I like Star Trek, all iterations except the sexist first one, but it’s not so much the science fiction. I like that all the main characters are good people–heroic, kind, etc. I only watch TV while doing my floor exercises every other day, but after watching Star Trek for so many years that I know what happens in every episode, I needed an alternative. 

            “Netflix kindly showed me other things I might like, given my liking for Star Trek, so I tried Designated Survivor.  I was instantly hooked.  It is a relentless thriller, which I would never normally watch and do not recommend for other HSPs. So why was I watching?

            “The show is about U.S. politics–this quiet guy, never interested in power or fame, becomes President after EVERYBODY in the government (even the Supreme Court) is killed in a huge bombing during the State of the Union address. 

            “It turns out this “designated survivor,” played by the actor, Kiefer Sutherland, and many of those around him, inspired by him, are unfailingly good and wise, in every situation, just like the crews of Enterprise. I was hooked, even though I am overstimulated by every episode. It was great to see Highly Sensitive Men in positions of power, even if only in a T.V. drama.”

            I had watched the series and found engaging from the first episode where the Kiefer Sutherland character stands up to a hot-headed general who wants to take immediate action before he knows all the facts, a great example of healthy male leadership. After having watched Sensitive Men Rising, I had a new appreciation for the importance of sensitive male leadership. We definitely need a U.S. President who displays the quality of high sensitivity.

 Sensitive Men Rising: The Peaceful Warriors We Need in the World Today

            A few of the real-life Highly Sensitive Men I have admired in my life include:

  • The Dalai Lama
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Psychologists Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Psychiatrist John Bowlby.

            These are all highly sensitive men who also have had to stand up against oppression with the strength of peaceful warriors. A man who also fits that description is meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. In my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, I quote Trungpa who says,

“Warriorship does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan, pawo, which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

            We are at a time in human history where Highly Sensitive Men are needed now more than ever. Mark Jamison, Head of Global Clients, VISA, Inc., one of the experts featured in the film Sensitive Men Rising,  says, “The world is falling apart, political divisiveness is pulling us under, the environment is being destroyed. We need a different model. When people see options that bring hope and sensitivity and a much more integrative approach to problem solving, I see them embracing it with their arms wide open.”

            At the end of the film, Dr. Elaine Aron concluds,

“Most of the world’s suffering is due to a certain kind of masculinity. A different kind can change that. Sensitive men are rising. It’s a whole new ball game.”

You can learn more about the film at sensitivemenrising.org.

            Actor and Director, Peter Coyote, who hosted the film asked us at the end, “What will you do to change the paradigm?” My answer is to join with like-minded and sensitive-souled men and women to make change for good.

            Come visit me on my website, https://menalive.com/ and check out our new non-profit, www.MoonshotForMankind.com.

The post Sensitive Men Rising: Why the World Needs Us Now More Than Ever appeared first on MenAlive.

I turned 80 last December and I want to go for 100. I want more time to complete the work that needs doing in my world. I’m passionate to help men live fully healthy lives. Our families and the world needs us. At MoonshotForMankind.com you can learn about our mission. My wife, Carlin, will be 86 in July, and we have five grown children, seventeen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. I want to live a long and healthy life so I can be there for them. Too many men I know die before their time and leave family members who forever miss their loving presence, guidance, and support.

            Tom Perls MD, MPH and Stacy Andersen, PhD. are co-directors of The New England Centenarian Study (NECS). The program has been enrolling and studying centenarians and their family members since 1995. Their research has demonstrated that it’s not just that these people have lived long, but a surprising number are living well.

“They have not washed up at their hundredth birthdays like shipwrecked castaways, having barely survived life’s journey,”

says Dr. Perls.

“Rather they have arrived in full sail, bearing their most precious possession—their health.”

            According to Dr. Perls,

“More people are living to 100 than ever before. The number of people aged 100 and older, or centenarians, has been steadily increasing in the United States since 1950, when the Census Bureau estimated there were only 2,300. In 2021, there were 89,739 centenarians in the US and 85% were women.”

I want to be part of the elite 15% of men who join them. How about you?

Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan and Healthspan

            Marianne J. Legato, M.D. is the world’s leading expert on Gender-Specific Medicine. In her book Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan, she details the fundamental biological facts that make men the underdog in the master-game of life. Here’s the truth. Can you handle it?

  • “You are less likely to survive the womb than your sisters.”
  • “You are six weeks behind in developmental maturity at birth compared to girls.”
  • “Men have four times the developmental disabilities of females.”
  • “Men suffer more severely than women from seven of the ten most common infections that humans experience.”
  • “You simply don’t have the vigorous immune systems that defend women.”
  • “Men are likely to experience the first ravages of coronary artery disease in their mid-thirties, a full 15 to 20 years before women and twice as many men die of the disease than women.”
  • Women are said to suffer from depression twice as often as men in virtually every country in the world. I think this is because men hide their pain.”

            Men are often shamed by those who don’t understand the realities of manhood. They assume men don’t care about their health or they are too foolish or lazy to do the things that would keep them healthy. It just isn’t so.

            An international team of scientists studying lifespans of wild mammals have found that, just like humans, females tend to live significantly longer than their male counterparts. The researchers looked at the lifespans of 101 different species, from sheep to elephants, and found that females lived an average of 18% longer than males for more than 60% of the species studies. In humans, females tend to live around 7.8% longer.

            Human males are doing better than a lot of other species, but we can do better.

            Clearly there are biological reasons that explain why male are more vulnerable than females. But here’s the good news. New findings from the emerging field of epigenetics show that we have greater control over our health than ever before. According to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, author of Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, “Biology is no longer our destiny. Our DNA doesn’t rigidly determine our health and disease prospects.”

Ageless Aging and What Men Can Learn From Women

            Like many men I didn’t think much about aging until I hit my 50s. I was too busy working, looking for love, finding a partner, having children, and supporting a family. You can sense my focus by the titles of my books that I wrote in my 40–Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, and The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet.

            I began writing what would become my international best-seller, Male Menopause, when I was fifty. I began to recognize that many of the symptoms of the “change of life” I was seeing in my wife and other women, were also present in myself and other men I knew. Before I wrote Male Menopause, I consulted my elders, the women in my life, and read everything I could find about women’s menopause.

            I learned that men and women weren’t as different as I had thought. In the book I said, “Male Menopause, also called Andropause or Manopause, begins with hormonal, physiological, and chemical changes that occur in all men generally between the ages of forty and fifty-five. Male menopause is a physical condition with psychological, interpersonal, social, and spiritual dimensions.”

            I went on to say,

“The purpose of male menopause is to signal the end of the first part of a man’s life and prepare him for the second half. Male Menopause is not the beginning of the end, as many fear, but the passage to the most passionate, powerful, productive, and purposeful time of a man’s life.”

            Maddy Dychtwald is an award-winning author and thought leader on longevity. With her husband Ken Dychtwald, she is the co-founder of the globally renowned think tank Age Wave. In her new book, Ageless Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Increasing Healthspan, Brainspan, and Lifespan, she says,

“We are in the midst of a longevity revolution, and women are leading the way, living an average of six years longer than men. If you’re a 50-year-old woman, chances are you will live 35 more years.”

            I am guessing there aren’t a lot of men who will pick up this “Woman’s Guide,” but that would be a big mistake. The book is authoritative, readable, and helpful for both women and men. Published by the Mayo Clinic Press, here are some of the topics Maddy covers. I found them all very helpful. I suspect that you will too. She offers insider information from the top experts that show how you can:

  • Make use of your longevity bonus years with maximum impact and purpose.
  • Learn the truth about your hormones and their impact on your life.
  • Clear up the confusion about nutrition and supplements.
  • Supercharge your immunity and find more energy every day.
  • Take steps to potentially prevent or delay cognitive decline.
  • Explore key strategies for improving your sleep.
  • Create more financial freedom and security for a longer, healthier life.

            She recognizes that women and men are different and we need a gender-specific approach to address many of these issues. But we can certainly learn from each other and apply the best of what Maddy can offer men like you and me.

Gender-Specific Medicine: The Challenge for Men to Live to 100 Begins When We are 50

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

says Dr. Legato in her book, Eve’s Rib: How the New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine and How it Can Save Your Life.

“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.”

            Recognizing sex and gender differences can help us all live longer and healthier lives. We can all extend our lifespan and healthspan, whether we are male or female and whether we make it to 100 or not. To live long and well, men and women face different challenges.

            What the research is showing us that if men are going to make it 100, we need to begin living healthier lives as early as we can, but most helpfully by the time we are in our 40s and 50s. I describe what we need to do in many of my books including, The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind, and Spirit After 40.

            If we don’t get healthy in our 40s and 50s, we’re not likely to be healthy in our 60s and 70s and there is little chance we’ll make it into our 80s, 90s, and get to the magic three-digit age of 100.

            Women face different challenges.

“Women tend to spend more years in poor health at the end of their lives than men do, even when you correct for their longer lives,”

says Dychtwald.

“The net result is that millions of women spend the last years of life coping with aches and pains and undergoing an increasing number of treatments for chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.”

The One Place in the World Where Men Live as Long as Women

            In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed with National Geographic, the National Institute on Aging, and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better, longer. In these five areas, dubbed “blue zones,” researchers found that people reach age 100 at a rate that is ten times greater than in the United States and with lower rates of chronic disease.

            The five original Blue Zones were:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California

            Buettner and his team described the common practices of all these long-lived people which I detailed in an article, “Adopting a Blue Zones Way of Life.” But even in most of these long-lived people, the women lived longer than the men, with one exception—Sardinia, an island off the coast of Italy.

            These findings were reported in the Journal of Aging Research: “A Population Where Men Live As Long As Women: Villagrande Strisaili, Sardinia.” The study is summarized as follows:

            “Usually women live longer than men and female centenarians largely outnumber male centenarians. The findings of previous studies identifying a population with a femininity ratio close to 1.0 among centenarians in the mountainous region of Sardinia was the starting point of an in-depth investigation in order to compare mortality trajectories between men and women in that population.”

            The study found a population where not only did people lived longer than most of the world, but the one place where the ratio of female to male centenarians was 50-50 rather than 85-15. We now know the practices that give us the best chance to live healthy lives into our 80s, 90s, 100s. Midlife is a great time to go for one hundred. So, my challenge to men is this: Who would like to join me in my quest to be the first in my family who lives to be 100?

            Maybe we can get Mayo Clinic Press to publish a new book: Ageless Aging: A Man’s Guide to Increasing Healthspan, Brainspan, and Lifespan. If you would like to join me, drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Dare to Be 100” in the subject line.

The post Men, Dare to Be 100: Your Family and the World Needs You Now More Than Ever appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by: Kelly Sikkema | Unsplash.com

            I have been a marriage and family therapist for more than fifty years. One of the greatest tragedies I am seeing today is the rise of midlife divorce with women initiating nearly 80% of the divorces.[i] Divorce can be devastating for both men and women, but contrary to popular perception, men suffer greater emotional wounding. I believe strongly that divorce is not the answer and most midlife marriages can be saved.

            The National Center for Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR), Co-directed by researchers Susan L. Brown and Wendy D. Manning, was established in 2007 to help improve our understanding of how family structure is linked to the health and well-being of children, adults, families, and communities. Dr. Brown’s recent article, “The Graying of Divorce: A Half Century of Change,” offers the following facts.

  • People over 50 are divorcing in record-breaking numbers, and three to four-family generations feel the effects.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, the divorce rate for U.S. married couples over 50 doubled and was even higher for couples aged 65 and older.
  • One in four persons who divorce in the U.S. is over 50, contrasted to less than one in ten in 1990.
  • More than half of gray divorces are couples in their first marriages, including more than 55 percent for couples married more than 20 years.
  • Divorce can be financially depleting. Women 50 and older experience a 45% decline in their standard of living; for men it’s 21%.
  • Baby Boomers are particularly vulnerable since they have a high rate of divorce and many went on to remarry. Second and third marriages have an even higher rate of divorce than first marriages (I know. Both my wife and I had been married and divorced twice, before we married. Third time was the charm).
  • As the divorce rate for adults over 50 soars, so does the number of adult children experiencing parental divorce.
  • In their book Second Chances, Wallerstein and Blakeslee assert, “Divorce is deceptive. Legally it is a single event, but psychologically it is a chain — sometimes a never-ending chain — of events, relocations, and radically shifting relationships strung through time, a process that forever changes the lives of the people involved.”

            The causes for divorce are varied. Each one is a personal tragedy for the people involved, but also for their children (including their adult children) and can ripple through many generations. No one says to their partner,

“I’m happily married. I love us and the partnership we’ve created. I want a divorce.”

            I suffered as a child when my own parents divorced following my mid-life father’s increasing irritability, anger, depression, and despair when I was five years old. I grew up vowing that it wouldn’t happen to me, but it did. Being a marriage and family counselor did not prevent me from having my own struggles that eventually led to divorce.

            Fortunately, I got help, learned why marriages succeed and fail, and what I could to ensure success. It hasn’t always been easy, but my wife, Carlin, and I have been happily married for forty-four years now. I have detailed what we learned and what can be most helpful to you in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stage of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. I have also developed an online course, “Navigating the 5 Stages of Love,” that draws on the main issues I share with my private counseling clients.

We all want real, lasting love, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Yet too many relationships fall apart, just when the couple could be enjoying their marriage the most. Most people don’t know why. They become disillusioned, frustrated, and lost. They have fallen out of love and mistakenly believe that they have chosen the wrong partner. After going through the grieving process, they start looking again; but often, their efforts end up in disappointment.

The 5 Secrets For Finding Keeping Your Marriage Alive and Well

            Have you ever wondered why finding the right partner and having a marriage that last through time and is passionate, nurturing, loving, and joyful has been so difficult?

            Are you in a relationship that started off great, but seems to have lost something vital?

            Are you in a mid-life relationship that could use some help? (My colleague, Chip Conley, author of Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Live Gets Better with Age, says with our increasing longevity midlife extends from age 35 to 75).

            Here are five secrets for a healthy marriage that lasts and gets better  through time.  

Secret #1: There are 5 Stages of Love Not Just Two.

            Many of us have come to believe that finding the right person (Stage 1) is the most important stage (Hence all the programs and dating sites that promise to help you find your soul mate). Once you’ve found that special someone, Stage 2 begins and you build a life together. We are told we are then entitled to live happily ever after. But that is not the case for most of us. Here are the 5 Stages I describe in my book, The Enlightened Marriage.

  • Stage 1: Falling In Love
  • Stage 2: Becoming a Couple
  • Stage 3: Disillusionment
  • Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
  • Stage 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World

            Most marriages that fail do so when one, or both partners, become disillusioned.

“Is this all there is? I need more. I’m tired working to make things better and I don’t want to remain in a hollow marriage.”

But disillusionment is not only a feeling, but an actual stage of marriage that can be understood and successfully navigated.

Secret #2: Stage 3, Disillusionment, is Not the Beginning of the End But the Entre to Real Lasting Love.

            If we believe there are only two stages for having the relationship we’ve always wanted when things start to go south we ignore the signs or wear ourselves out trying to fix things. When things don’t get fixed we often blame ourselves or our partner and feel we must get out of the relationship because it seems that no matter what we do, things don’t get better.

            There is an old saying that can help us at this point,

“When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.”

Most people either remain stuck in their pain or wear down and want to bail out. What is called for here is support and guidance to keep going deeper. One of the most important things I teach people when they come to me for counseling is how to understand the value of Stage 3.

Secret #3: Stage 3 Teaches Us to Get Real.

            Falling in love is by necessity deceptive. We so want to find that right person, we all project our unmet needs and desires on them. We don’t see the real person, we see what we want and hope to see. We don’t fully share our real selves. We share the parts of ourselves we think will be most attractive to a potential partner.

            As we get older and we spend more time in our marriages, we often become more and more afraid to reveal our true selves, speak about our real needs and desires. Men often ignore the warning signs or see the signs but never really know what to do to fix things. Little by little the disillusionment builds up and often leads to divorce if a couple doesn’t get help.

            In Stage 3 we learn to recognize our projections and take the risk to slowly reveal who we really are and accept the gift of who our partner really is. We also recognize that there are unhealed wounds from our past relationships, most importantly from our first relationships—the ones we had growing up in our first family with our parents. We must get real with our past in order to have the future we all want.

            The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said,

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

This is never an easy task. Stage 3, if we can get help navigating it successfully, can help us release the illusions that keep us from our true selves.

Secret #4: We All Have Faulty Love Maps That Must Be Corrected.

            Most of us grew up in families where we got a distorted map of what real lasting love was all about. There were beliefs about ourselves and others that were implanted in our brains and became mostly unconscious. We were implanted with internalized messages that told us things like:

  • I am not safe.
  • I am worthless.
  • I am powerless.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I cannot trust anyone.
  • I am bad.
  • I am on my own.

            Or we see our partner through the lens of these unhelpful belief systems.

Do you recognize some of these beliefs in your own marriage?

Secret #5: Real Lasting Love Requires Three Necessary Ingredients.

            Most of us have no idea how to nourish a healthy relationship through all the challenges we face as we age. It’s as though we are given a beautiful and rare flower, but we mistakenly give it too much water or not enough. I thought all I needed to do when I got married was to be a good provider and refrain from being mean and nasty (Oh, and remember to shower regularly). But it took me a long time to learn the simple, yet necessary ingredients for real lasting love to flourish.

            Psychologist, Dr. Sue Johnson, offers guidance in her book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. She helps us remember these three ingredients with one simple word: ARE.

  • A is for Accessibility: Can we reach each other? This means staying open to your partner even when you are tired, hurt, or insecure. Answering “yes” to questions like: Can I get my partner’s attention easily? Is my partner easy to connect with emotionally?
  • R is for Responsiveness: Can we rely on each other to respond to our emotional needs?  Answering “yes” to questions like: If I need connection and comfort, will you be there for me? Does my partner respond positively to my signals that I need them to come close?
  • E is for Engagement: Do we trust our partner to value us and stay close even when we are out of sync with each other? Answering “yes” to questions like, Do I feel very comfortable being close to and trusting my partner? If we are apart, can I trust that we are still connected and cared for?

Most of us didn’t learn how to give and receive real lasting love. We forget that like food, we need these three types of nourishment often, many times a day. A big splurge on anniversaries and special occasions never makes up for what we miss if we don’t get these regular gifts of love every day.

Divorce is not the answer because we know that these skills can be taught. I believe it is never too late to have a happy marriage. And most midlife marriages are worth saving.

I am planning to offer a course called “Divorce is Not the Answer: How to Save Your Midlife Marriages,” but I’d like to hear from you. If you would be interested in attending please drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and let me know. Please put “Divorce is Not the Answer” in the subject line.


[i] Professor Scott Galloway, Divorce, https://www.profgalloway.com/divorce/

The post Divorce is Not the Answer: Why More Couples Over 50 Are Divorcing and How to Save Your Midlife Marriage appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by: Ellery Sterling / Unsplash.com

I am an only child by birth, but Tony became the brother I never had. It began the day I attended a workshop on April 21, 1979. I had recently moved to Mill Valley from Stockton California after my marriage had ended. I felt alone and hungry for connection. I saw a flyer tacked on a bulletin board that grabbed my attention:

“Men, come and share a day with other men and hear psychologist Herb Goldberg, author of The Hazards of Being Male. We will explore the complexities of men’s roles today.”

            Goldberg said,

“There is a lot of talk these days about male privilege. It’s true that males, as a group, occupy many positions of power in society, but the male has paid a heavy price for his masculine privilege and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

            I could certainly relate to his words and I was looking for a different way to be in the world.

            The day with Goldberg and what followed changed my life. The day wasn’t about gender politics or trying to figure out who was more harmed by the social system. It was about taking responsibility for our own wounds and supporting each other in healing. One of the exercises we did, was to have each man reflect on the times we had felt dropped-out or betrayed by other males in our lives.

            I talked about my father’s anger and his leaving the family when I was five years old, something I had rarely discussed with anyone, and certainly not in front of a group of strangers. As other men talked about their own experiences, I realized I wasn’t alone. Many men had experienced a father wound. But there were other hurts and betrayals.

            One man talked about being the youngest in his family and having two older brothers who tormented him. Another talked about his hunger to have a child. He was willing to give up a relationship that was good in all other ways, except the woman didn’t want children. I’d never heard a man talk so fervently about wanting to be a dad.

            Tony was one of the fifteen men attending the gathering. He was tall, good-looking, soft-spoken, but very approachable.

            After the day had ended, we all had opened ourselves up to vulnerabilities and wounds we had never shared before. I felt I had found soul brothers and wanted to continue the experience. Tom, one of the organizers, invited anyone interested to meet the following Thursday at his home. Ten of us showed up and we discussed the idea of meeting weekly for a men’s group. I was pleased to see that one of the men who came was Tony. After a few weeks, the group was reduced to seven and we have continued meeting since then.

            My wife, Carlin, says that one of the main reasons she feels we have had a wonderful forty-four-year marriage is because I have been in a men’s group that has been meeting for forty-five years.

            In my book12 Rules for Good Men I reflected on the many experiences we went through together in the group and described the following 7 Stages:

  • Learning to Trust and Open Up.
  • Revealing Our True Selves, Fears, and Insecurities.
  • Baring our Bodies and Souls.
  • Finding Delight and Having Great Fun Together.
  • Revitalizing the Group (After we had been together twelve years, one of the guys said we seemed like an old and comfortable married couple. We needed to spice things up, and we did).
  • Making a Lifetime Commitment to Keeping the Group Together.
  • Dealing With Disabilities, Loss, and Dying.

            When the group began in 1979, I was thirty-six. There were three guys older than me and three guys younger. I turned eighty last year and am now the group elder. Four of us have passed on and three of us are still alive. Tony passed on May 26, 2024 and we are still in the process of mourning his death and celebrating the gifts that he has left us.

            There are two qualities that stand out to me about Tony. The first quality is his patience. In a world where everyone seems to be in a rush, Tony always took his time. He listened and reflected deeply. When he did talk, it was always with gentleness, clarity, and an ability to cut through the chatter and noise and get to the heart of the matter.

            In recent years he had to deal with many health challenges and would say that it was like an endless “whack-a-mole,” dealing with one problem, only to have another one pop up and demand his attention. But he handled each one with grace and courage.

            The second quality is his generosity. We would take turns meeting in different places, sometimes in one of our homes, sometimes in another. Sometimes we would rent a house in a beautiful area, often by the ocean. Whenever we met, when it was Tony’s turn to host he would go out of his way to make the experience special. Spending time with Tony was always a cornucopia good food, good wine, good cheer, and always a surprise or two.

            His generosity of spirit went beyond the things that a great host, friend, and brother would do. He was like a virtuoso musician (He loved music and had been a roadie for the Sons of Champlin rock band in the 1960s and 1970s) who paid attention to details. And the details all had to do with the music of love and life.

            One of the experiences that Tony and I had together was attending one of the last performances that the band the Eagles gave at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on March 10, 1980. I had seen the Eagles perform shortly after the band formed in the 1970s and danced and sang to iconic songs like Peaceful Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise, and Desperado (for me the ultimate song that spoke to my wounded heart—as it has to so many males I know–with lyrics

like these:

Desperado, you know you ain’t gettin’ no younger
Your pain and your hunger, are drivin’ you home
And freedom, oh freedom
Well, that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walking
Through this world all alone…

And don’t your feet get cold in the wintertime?
The sky won’t snow, and the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night-time from the day
You’re losin’ all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feelin’ goes away?

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you…

And the last plaintive lines:

You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
Let somebody love you before it’s too late.

            On our last telephone call before Tony passed he told me,

“I received a loving intervention from some medical professionals today who made it clear to me that I am dying. Just wanted to touch in with you and the guys. There will be no grand gestures or parties or anything like that. I just want to remember the great times we have had together these many years. I love you, my brother. You do the great work and I love you so much.”

            Being with Tony and the five other men in our group has given me lessons about courage and love that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Tony, I love you too, brother. Your spirit will continue to bless us all.

            As we all had agreed, our group will carry on until the last man has passed and will live on through the lives of those we love and whose lives we have touched.

            My commitment to men and the work I do is to write an article each week and send out a free newsletter to anyone who would like to subscribe. You can do so here.

            I also offer a number of on-line courses on some of the most important issues people address in their lives. You can check them out here.

The post Our 45-Year Men’s Group: Honoring Tony, A Man of Great Generosity and Patience appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by: Robina Weermeijer | Unsplash.com

Part 4 —The Neuroscience of the Male Brain

            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 explored Gender-Specific Healing and Man Therapy. In Part 4, I will share recent research from leading neuroscientists.

            Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists. In 1996 she suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. It took her many years to fully recover, but what she learned can help us all change our lives for the better. After her recovery she wrote a book about what she learned and gave a TED talk, “My Stroke of Insight.” It has now been viewed over 25 million times and remains one of the most popular TED talks ever.

            Prior to the publication of her most recent book, Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Taylor.

Getting to Know Your Four Brain Characters

“There is now convincing neuroanatomical evidence of the existence of four brain characters,”

says Dr. Taylor.

“Surgically separating our two brain hemispheres has scientifically shown us that they are not simply two anatomically separate halves of a whole. Instead, the two halves of our brain house completely different character profiles that each exhibit unique wants, dreams, interests, and desires.”

            Dr. Taylor found that in each brain hemisphere there is a thinking character and an emotional character.

“Neuroanatomically these four groups of cells make up the left-and-right thinking centers of our higher cerebral cortex, as well as our left-and-right emotional centers of our lower limbic system,” says Dr. Taylor.

She goes on to add:

The better you know your Four Characters, the easier your life will become.”

            Since all information comes into the brain first through our emotional centers, Dr. Taylor says we are all 

“feeling beings who think, rather than thinking beings who feel.” 

The philosopher, René Descartes’ dictum cogito, ergo sum, (Latin: “I think, therefore I am”), whose views have greatly influenced our culture, demonstrates the imbalance towards our thinking centers which have come to overshadow our emotional centers.

            Character 1. This rational character in your left-brain thinking is amazingly gifted at creating order in the external world. This part of your brain defines what is right/wrong and what is good/bad based upon its moral compass. It is also our left-brain Character 1 that triggers our stress response since it is always alert to potential danger.

            Dr. Taylor suggests we name each of our brain characters as a way to begin to become intimate with these unique characters within us. She calls her Character 1, Helen.

“She is Hell on wheels and gets things done,”

says Dr. Taylor.

I call my Character 1, J-DiJ  for Just Do It, JedThis character is action oriented, takes no prisoners. He is impatient and jumps to creating solutions, often before he gets all the facts. Rather than taking his time–On your mark, get set, go–he often “goes off” quickly, never needing to get ready or set. This can, and often does, cause problems in my life and relationships.

            As you get to know your own Character 1, you will come up with your own name and learn his or her characteristics. Dr. Taylor lists some of the characteristics of Character 1 as follows:

  • Organizes and categorizes everything.
  • Divides people into us and them.
  • Is protective of our people and suspicious of those people.
  • Plans well.
  • Respects authority.
  • Critically judges right and wrong, good and bad.
  • Interested in details and differences.
  • Counts everything.

Character 2. The left-brain emotional character is preoccupied with one vital question: “Am I safe?” This is the core issue for any intimate relationship as well as our very survival through our long evolutionary history. Making a wrong decision was literally a life and death issue, particularly for women. Picking a partner who was not safe put women at risk of sudden death from predators, from males from other tribes who might cause harm to her or her children, as well as from a potentially untrustworthy partner. For men, the risk was also there, but the threat of death was less imminent.

            Character 2 is often powered by a familiar feeling of unease that stems from a traumatized or out-of-control past. As a result, this Character 2 part of our brain may end up feeling either “less than” or “not worthy.” It can also bring up fears of abandonment. That’s why I call my Character 2, Aban.

            A great deal of the conflicts I have had in relationships can be traced back to my fears that my safety and security needs were being threatened.

            Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 2 include:

  • Gets angry and name-calling when upset.
  • Feels guilty.
  • Internalizes shame.
  • Loves conditionally.
  • Harbors negative self-judgments.
  • Experiences a great deal of anxiety and worry.
  • Egocentric.
  • Blames others.

            Where Characters 1 and 2, address issues of our past and future and how we can use things and people, our right brain Characters 3 and 4 are all about the present moment and how we can see the big picture, connect with others, and appreciate their uniqueness.

            Character 3. The right-brain emotional, is our experiential self that seeks similarities rather than differences with other people. It wants to connect, explore, and go on adventures with others. The way the present moment feels is delicious, and sharing time, having fun, or deeply connecting through empathy can be gratifying for everyone.

            I call my Character 3, Jeddy, the endearing name my wife, Carlin, calls me when we are feeling the most connected and playful. Jeddy is like a big joyful puppy dog. He is spontaneous, exuberant, unrestrained. He may unexpectedly jump into your lap and lick your face. He also can overwhelm you with his barks of delight and may even pee here and there when he is overly excited.

Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 3 include:

  • Forgiving.
  • Awe-inspiring.
  • Playful.
  • Empathic.
  • Creative.
  • Joyful.
  • Curious.
  • Hopeful.

Character 4. The right-brain thinking character which exists as our most peaceful, open, and loving self. Our Character 4 is right here, right now, and completely invested in celebrating the gift of life with immense gratitude, acceptance, openness, and love. I call my Character 4, The Lovers. My Tarot deck says the card VI, Lovers, is

“symbolized by the conjoined male and female, is the law of union—oneness through the marriage of opposites.”

Along with the right-brain feeling Character 3, Character 4 is what Dr. Taylor experienced in all its magnificence when the left-side of her brain was incapacitated due to the brain hemorrhage.

“This is the part of our consciousness, right thinking brain that we share with one another and all other life,”

says Dr. Taylor.

            “I see the brain cells underlying our Character 4 as the portal through which the energy of the universe enters into and fuels every cell of our body. It is the all-knowing intelligence from which we came, and it is how we incarnate the consciousness of the universe.”

Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 4 include being:

  • Aware: I am connected to all that is.
  • Expansive: I am open to possibilities and value the big picture.
  • Accepting: I am curious about what is and accept all of life’s experiences.
  • Embracing change.
  • Authentic.
  • Generous of Spirit.
  • Vulnerable.
  • Connected: In the consciousness of the cosmic flow I embrace the timeless, all-knowing part of myself that is connected to all that is.

            Dr. Taylor’s colleague, Iain McGilchrist, is a psychiatrist and author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Modern World. Dr. McGilchrist says,

“We have more knowledge than ever, and yet the world is getting worse. Isn’t it as if a spell is driving our minds in the wrong direction? Aren’t we empowering machines while we are disempowering people? Isn’t the technocratic approach to nature, health, education, social relations and digital transformation giving counterproductive results, and taking us to a more dehumanizing world?”

            We need to engage all four brain characters and both hemispheres of the brain, but as Dr. McGilchrist has shown, the right hemisphere must be in charge, and in our modern world we have gotten way out of balance.

“We behave like people who have right hemisphere damage that treats the world as a simple resource to be exploited.

            The hope for our collective future is that we recognize our imbalance, learn to let our right-brain characters 3 and 4 lead the way, and let our left-brain characters 1 and 2 do what they are supposed to do–become the emissary rather than trying to become the master. Getting our heads together may be the most important things humans can do if we want to return to being part of the community of life on planet Earth.

            I have found it very helpful in sorting out a whole host of issues in my life to have what Dr. Taylor calls a “brain huddle” where I can hear from all four characters. When all my characters have been heard from, it is clear which character needs to take charge in a particular situation. Usually, my right hemisphere characters 3 and 4, have the big-picture wisdom and my left hemisphere characters 1 and 2, need to listen well and back up the decision that my right hemisphere characters, particularly Character 4 has clearly seen.

            Since all of us come into being as a result of the sexual union between a male and a female, I picture my Character 4 being a partnership of a male and female character that captures the essence of all my male and female ancestors. This is truly a leadership team that can guide my future. I invite you to visit Dr. Taylor’s website here.

            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. Coming soon, information on the new film, Sensitive Men Rising.

The post The Future of Men’s Mental Health appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by: Alexander Grey | Unsplash.com

Although there have been infinite varieties of life forms that have evolved on Earth in the last 4 billion years, two life forms that are our male and female ancestors evolved a billion years ago. Here’s how this first sexual experience occurred according to cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry in their book, The Universe Story.

            The first male organism—they call him Tristan—and the first female organism—they call her Iseult—began life in the ancient oceans. Swimme and Berry describe their chance encounter this way:

“They were cast into the marine adventure, with its traumas of starvation and of predation. Able to nourish themselves but no longer capable of dividing into daughter cells, such primal living beings made their way through life until an almost certain death ended their 3-billion-year lineage.

A slight, an ever so slight, chance existed that a Tristan cell would come upon a corresponding Iseult cell.They would brush against each other, a contact similar to so many trillions of other encounters in their oceanic adventure. But with this one, something new would awaken. Something unsuspected and powerful and intelligent, as if they had drunk a magical elixir, would enter the flow of electricity through each organism.

Suddenly the very chemistry of their cell membranes would begin to change. Interactions evoked by newly functioning segments of her DNA would restructure the molecular web of Iseult’s skin, so that an act she had never experienced or planned for would begin to take place—Tristan entering her cell wholly.”

Of course no humans were there to record this original encounter, but we all have origin stories and this one resonates with me. Dates are never exact and change as more information is gathered. Here are some additional dates I found important in The Universe Story timeline:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe begins.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerges.
  • 1 billion years ago sexual reproduction evolves.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appear.
  • 30 million years ago the first apes inhabit the earth.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans appeared.
  • 200,000 years ago Archaic Homo sapiens evolved.
  • 10,600 years ago first settlements in the Middle East emerged and wheat and barley were cultivated.

Needless to say, we have a long evolutionary history to embrace. In their book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, Douglas T. Kenrick, PhD and David E. Lundberg-Kenrick describe seven evolutionary challenges we must all face and embrace. They offer a visual summary as a revision of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Human Needs which they call The New Pyramid of Human Motives:

The Seven Challenges for a Successful Life

            During the billion years of life, all organisms must embrace these challenges and they are particularly relevant beginning with our mammalian history. In their book, the Kenricks ask, “What are the fundamental problems of human existence?” They go on to share the results of their research.

“Together with a large team of researchers at more than 30 universities on five continents, we have been investigating the universal motivations faced by human beings around the globe.”

Here is a summary of their findings:

  • Survive.

                        We must meet our basic physiological needs for shelter from the elements,

                       water, and food.

  • Protect yourself from attackers and plunderers.

      Given the scarcity of resources and the ever-present possibility of starvation, there has always been competition among different groups (most often the male members) for precious real estate and resources (including access to females).

  • Make and keep friends.

                         As the Kenricks remind us. “Our ancestors were not rugged individualists.

                       They need to band together not only to protect themselves from bands of

                       marauding bad guys but also to accomplish most of the tasks of everyday life.”

  • Get some respect.

                      Some people have always been more resourceful and clever than others and

                      some were more willing to bravely defend their groups against armed marauders.

                      Those resourceful and courageous individuals won higher status and gained

                      greater respect.

  • Find a mate.

                     “From the perspective of evolution by natural selection,” say the Kenricks, “this

                       step is essential. Every one of our ancestors managed to attract at least one

                       person who wanted to make with them. Not everybody in the ancient world got

                       to reproduce, though, and a reasonable percentage of men went unmated.” This

                       fact, is of major importance when understanding male desires, fears, and

                       behavior.

  • Hang on to that mate.

                     From an evolutionary perspective, we not only have to find a mate who will have

                      sex with us, but we need to hold on to our mate long enough to have a child and

                      raise the child to maturity, so they can find a mate and continue the process.

  • Care for your family members.

  Unlike other animals, human males are much more involved with raising children, since human children require long-term care before they reach reproductive age.

Males and Females Are Alike and Also Different

            Males and females are alike in that they must both successfully meet the seven challenges noted above. However, there are also significant evolutionary differences. These differences first came home to me when I first met psychologist David M. Buss and read his book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.  

            “If mating desires and other features of human psychology are products of our evolutionary history,” says Dr. Buss, “they should be found universally, not just in the United States.”

To test his theories, he conducted a five-year study working with collaborators from thirty-seven cultures located on six continents and five islands. All major racial groups, religious groups, and ethnic groups were represented. In all, his research team surveyed 10,047 persons world-wide.

            Dr. Buss concluded that there are actually two human natures, one male, the other female. What do women really want?  Buss found that the top three qualities that women look for in men are exactly the same as those things that men look for in women: Intelligence, kindness, and love. Then, what women want diverges from what men want.

            “Women then look at a man’s ability to protect her and her children, his capacity to provide, and his willingness to make commitment to a relationship,” says Buss.

            What do men really want?  

“A man is drawn to youth and beauty,”

says Buss.

“This  interest is not just a modern desire driven by advertising and male desire to control women [though advertisers take advantage of our evolutionary-driven desires]. It is a universal desire based on evolutionary pressures for reproductive success. Men who mated with women who were incapable of bearing children left no ancestors. Every man alive today is descended from men who did not make that mistake. Worldwide, men are drawn to younger women.”

            Note: Just because we have these evolutionary-based desires does not mean we must act on them, that they are good for us, or will make us, or the partners we desire, happy. It also does not mean they are hard-wired into our biological makeup and can’t be changed. It does mean that we must take seriously our evolutionary-based desires and listen to the ancient “whisperings within” that pull us in certain directions.

The Hazards and Blessings of Gender-Specific Health

The ancient Roman philosopher, Virgil offers a simple truth to consider.

“The greatest wealth is health.”

A modern American medical doctor, Marianne J. Legato, M.D., world-renowned cardiologist and founder of The Foundation For Gender-Specific Medicine, says,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

Although human males, as a group, occupy more positions of power in government and business than women, it has come at a price. This was first brought home to me by psychologist Herb Goldberg, in his book 1976, The Hazards of Being Male.

“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

In recent years we have learned a lot more about the realities of being male.

“If it’s true that men rule the world, it comes at a heavy cost,”

says Dr. Legato.

“From conception until death, men are inherently more fragile and vulnerable than women. In virtually every society today, men die first.”

Dr. Legato offers the following facts of life:

  • The male fetus is less likely to survive the womb than the female.
  • Boys are six weeks behind in developmental maturity at birth compared to girls.
  • Men have four times the developmental disabilities of females.
  • Men suffer more severely than women from seven of the ten most common infections that human experience [Including Covid-19].
  • Men are likely to experience the first ravages of coronary artery disease in their mid-thirties, a full 15 or 20 years before women.
  • Twice as many men die of heart disease, the leading cause of all deaths, than do women.
  • Men die by suicide 4 times more than women.
  • Murder and homicide are among the top four killers of men from the time they are born until heart disease and cancers begin to claim those who survive into middle age.

Accepting the realities of our own inherent weakness and vulnerabilities instead of trying to pretend we are masters of the universe is the first step we just take to begin our own healing and recovery.

I have been writing a series of articles on the Future of Men’s Mental Health. In Part 3, “Gender-Specific Healing and Man Therapy,” I explore my own healing journey and issues that address the unique problems 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. If you’d like more information about upcoming trainings, drop me an email to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Gender-Specific Health Training” in the subject line.

The post The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by: Mark Basarab / Unsplash.com

Have you been following the discussion that began with a question to a small group of women: If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a man? The great majority of the women answered, “a bear” and explained that they would feel safer encountering a bear in the forest than a man they didn’t know. The hypothetical question has sparked a broader discussion about why women fear men.

            I’d like to share my own experiences. I will start by laying my cards on the table so you know my biases from the outset:

  • I have been a man all my life which now totals 80 years.
  • I was born in New York City, grew up in Los Angeles, and have lived in cities most of my life where I never encountered a bear or any other wild animal.
  • I am a psychotherapist, author of 17 books about men and their relationships, and have worked with what many consider “dangerous men” in jails, prisons, and treatment centers.
  • In 1991 my wife and I moved out of the city, bought land in the hills of Mendocino County outside a small town of Willits, California and I had my first encounter with wild animals including several bears.

            The impetus for our move to the country began when I was diagnosed with a rare adrenal tumor which kills most people before they know they have it. Luckily, I didn’t die. My doctor made the diagnosis—a pheochromocytoma. I had emergency surgery and the tumor was removed.

            When I asked the doctors what caused me to get a tumor, they didn’t know. “Maybe genetics, maybe bad luck, who knows?” they told me. Well, I believe we all have an inner healer who does know. I asked and the answer I got was clear and concise:

            Inner Healer to Jed: Adrenal tumor, adrenaline! Don’t you get it? You’ve living in stressful environments for way too long. You have to slow down.

            Jed to Inner Healer: I have slowed down. I was born to New York, pretty high-stressed place. We moved to Los Angeles where I grew up and went to school, a lower stress place. Now we live in Mellow Marin County. I’ve been slowing down, really I have.

            Inner Healer to Jed: I do hear you. You have slowed down, New York, Los Angeles, Marin. You’ve gotten your stress score down from 100 to an 88. But you have to get it down to a 9.

            Jed to Inner Healer: You’ve got to be kidding me, a 9!  I’d have to change my whole life!!!

            Inner Healer to Jed: Yep.

            So, we found a little cabin on 22 acres of land and moved in and I planned to relax more. It was quiet and peaceful and the neighbors were nice. But the truth was, everything scared me. It was too quiet. After we had been there a month and I was sitting on a ridge overlooking a valley, I heard a very faint sound. So soft, I wasn’t even sure it was there. I finally realized that what I was hearing was the sound of my eye lashes blinking. I was used to the sounds of a big city. It was difficult to think with only the sounds of silence to keep me company.

            What really scared me, though, were the animal sounds I would hear at night. I was determined to follow my inner healer’s advice and learn to slow down and relax. I knew I needed to settle into my new surroundings. There was  a deck at the end of our property where I often went to think about my future. I decided I would learn to address my anxieties and fears by sleeping outside every night during the first summer we were there.

            Each night after dinner, I would walk in the dark from our house to the deck, about a ten-minute walk, where I would spend the night. I walked first with a flashlight, then stop, turn it off, and listen to the night sounds. I would hear the bugs, birds, and small animals moving through the brush. I would snuggle up in my sleeping bag and gradually I got used to the night sounds and got to know the creatures that lived in my new neighborhood in the woods.

            One morning as I was just waking up I saw a large animal coming my way on a narrow trail that led away from my deck where I slept. At first I didn’t know what it was. It was bigger than a big dog but walked differently. It didn’t take me long to realize that a large black bear was walking towards me.

            My mouth went dry, my heart began to pound. I didn’t know what to do. Should I yell and try and scare him away? Should I run and hide? I had no idea. What I finally did was to start talking very fast: “Ah…bear…I’m Jed, I don’t have anything you would want to eat, including me, I know this is your home, I just moved here, I really want to be a good neighbor, please don’t hurt me, I…”

            I ran out of words and the bear stopped a hundred feet from me. I looked at him (or her? I had no idea)  and he looked at me. And I wondered whether the next thing would be a bear at my throat. Instead, he turned around and walked back down the path.

            It was a strange rite of passage for this city boy. I felt like he had decided that I was definitely a little strange but I was OK. He came back periodically when I wasn’t there. I could tell because he marked his territory by scratching marks on the posts of my deck. I had a number of encounters with bears, a few real scary one when we encountered a mamma bear with her cubs and she reared up on her hind legs and barked her cubs up a three. I bowed low and slowly backed away.  I had a healthy respect for bears and other wild animals but we got to know each other.

            Not so, when I had my first encounter with a strange man. One morning I was walking on my property and suddenly a strange man turned the corner on the trail. I yelled, turned around and ran. I looked over my shoulder to see if he was chasing me and realized that he was running away, looking over his shoulder to see if I was chasing him.

            We both stopped running and slowly approached each other cautiously. I told him I owned this property and told me he was visiting neighbors and had gone for a walk and gotten lost the night before. He had slept out all night and was trying to find his way back when he ran into me. I drove him back to the neighbors who saw me as a hero for finding their friend and we shared stories about our encounters with bears and men.

What Evolutionary Science Can Teach Us About Bears and Men and How to Stay Safe

            We can’t understand bears, men, or how to be safe unless we know something about evolutionary science. In their book The Universe Story, cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry, share our evolutionary history. Here are a few key players and the dates they joined the party:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe began with a bang.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerged.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appeared.
  • 55 million years ago the first bear-like animals evolved.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans, Homo habilis, walked the earth.

            In a recent book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, evolutionary psychologists Douglas T. Kenrick and David E. Lunberg-Kenrick, detail the seven fundamental problems the humans have faced since we arrived. We have to:

  1. Survive by meeting our basic needs for water, food, and shelter.
  2. Protect ourselves from attackers and plunderers.
  3. Make and keep friends.
  4. Gain status and respect from our fellow tribal members.
  5. Find a mate.
  6. Hang on to that mate.
  7. Focus on family and raise good children.

            What they say about basic challenges number 1 and 2, can help us better understand how to stay safe in today’s world. The first step is clear. We must get what we need to survive or our story ends here. All our direct ancestors survived and completed all seven steps.

            They go on to talk about the reality that in our evolutionary past, as well as in modern times, we have a lot more to fear from men than we do from wild animals. In the Bronx Zoo, there is a classic sign on one exhibit that advertised, “World’s Most Dangerous Predator.” Above the sign was a mirror.

            Humans truly are a dangerous species and the danger is most commonly coming from men. Whether you are venturing into the remote unexplored jungles where modern hunter-gatherers live or looking at death rates from our evolutionary past, Dr. Kenrick and other evolutionary-informed scientists have found that men are the more violent half of humanity.

“The odds that a stranger is a potential threat to your physical safety are many times higher if that stranger is a male. They are especially high if he is a young adult male and if he is with a group of other young adult males.”

            So, it is natural that women, and men, would be more fearful of meeting an unknown man in the woods than a bear. But the fact that our modern brains still have the old wiring from our evolutionary past, does not mean that we should be afraid of all bears or all men. As I learned, we are all safer when we learn about the others who we will encounter in our lives.

            I learned to get comfortable with the bears who lived in my neighborhood. I also learned I could talk to the bears, let them know I was no threat, and I imagined they would listen. I found out I could overcome my immediate reaction to flee or fight when confronted by an unknown male. I could stop and realize we were both afraid of each other and taking time to calm down and talk helped us both connect in a positive way.

            What I have learned from evolutionary science is that most wild animals can be our friends and so can most men. The way to be safer in the world is to connect more deeply with ourselves, each other, and this beautiful planet we all share.

            One more point. Humans have certainly done our evolutionary job well in populating the world. We don’t need more and more people, but we could certainly use more wisdom from our animal elders. As Thomas Berry reminds us,

“We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”

            I have worked with a lot of dangerous and violent men in my life. I agree with the world of psychologist James Hollis. “Men’s lives are violent because their souls have been violated.” I invite those interested to check out our Moonshot for Mankind.

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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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Photo by Dan Meyers / Unsplash.com

Part 2—Mental Health Crises Are Putting Everyone At Risk

            This is the second part of a multi-part series on “The Future of Men’s Mental Health.” I have been concerned about men’s mental health since I was five years old and my mid-life father took an overdose of sleeping pills after he had become increasingly depressed when he couldn’t support  his family doing what he loved. In Part 1 of this series, “Men and Mental Health, What Are We Missing?”, I detailed recent research showing the problems that have been neglected up until now.

            In a previous series of articles, “Healer Heal Thyself: Why Health Care Professionals Are Becoming Stressed, Depressed, and Suicidal,” I describe the challenging realities facing health-care professionals as well as those who seek them out for health support and healing.  In Part 1, I noted:

“Health care workers compared with non-healthcare workers have greater risks for mental health problems and long-term work absences due to mental disorders, and are at increased risk of suicide, compared with workers in other fields.”

“Our results extend earlier research from outside the United States that health care workers compared with non-healthcare workers have greater risks for mental health problems and long-term work absences due to mental disorders,” said Mark Olfson, MD, MPH, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Public Health and professor of Psychiatry, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “The importance of increased suicide risk of health care support workers is underscored by their growth from nearly 4 million in 2008 to 6.6 million in 2021.”

            Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician, author, and expert in physician suicide prevention. In her book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered, she says, “I’ve been a doctor for twenty years. I’ve not lost a single patient to suicide. I’ve lost only colleagues, friends, lovers–ALL male physicians–to suicide.”

            Males are not the only ones who die by suicide, but we are much more likely to die. Dr. Wible details the reasons that so many doctors and other healthcare professionals die by suicide including the following:

  • Doctoring is more than a job; it’s a calling, an identity.
  • With so much need, we often put the needs of others ahead of our own.
  • Most practitioners become burned out, overworked, or exhausted.
  • Workaholics are admired in medicine and other healthcare professions.
  • Caring for sick people can make us sick if we don’t take care of ourselves.
  • Seeing too much pain and not enough joy is unhealthy.
  • We don’t take very good care of themselves or each other.
  • We don’t acknowledge the reality that we are at high risk of overwork, overwhelm, breakdown, and self-harm.

            These issues are not only prevalent in males, but there are sex differences that we need to understand and address. According to Marianne J. Legato, MD, Founder of the Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine,

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

            In Part 2  of the series, I talk about the future of gender-specific healthcare and describe my interview with Dr. Legato, who told me,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

I also described my interview with Richard V. Reeves, author of, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It and founder of American Institute for Boys and Men (AIBM). Reeves says,

“It became clear to me that the problems of boys and men are structural in nature, rather than individual; but are rarely treated as such. The problem with men is typically framed as a problem of men. It is men who must be fixed, one man or boy at a time. This individualist approach is wrong.”

            In Part 3, I discuss the unique times we are living in today where rapid change of modern life have created a unique set of mental health problems that must be solved on a systemic as well as a personal level.  The futurist, Alvin Toffler called the problem Future Shock and said,

“It will not be found in Index Medicus or in any listing of psychological abnormalities. Yet, unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it, millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violence already apparent in contemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unless we come to understand and treat this disease.”

            Toffler notes that Future Shock results when societies are faced with too much change in too short a time. Not only are we being overwhelmed with the rate of change in our lives, but also the overwhelming complexity of our social systems that  can lead to collapse of entire civilizations. Rebecca C. Costa describes the effects of complexity in her groundbreaking book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. The result is a critical increase in fear and anxiety, which impacts everyone.

            In his book, Anxious: Using The Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety, Joseph LeDoux, one of the world’s leading mental health experts says,

“Collectively fear and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of all psychiatric problems in the United States, affecting about twenty  percent of the population with an associated economic cost estimated to exceed $40 billion annually.”

            Dr. Wendy Suzuki is a professor of neural science and psychology at the Center for Neural Science at New York University, says,

“We live in an age of anxiety. Like an omnipresent, noxious odor we’ve grown used to, anxiety has become a constant condition, a fact of life on this planet. From global pandemics to crashing economies, to intense, daily family challenges, we have plenty of justifiable reasons to feel anxious.”

            The effects of all these changes are causing social and political upheavals. On April 7, 2024, The Morning Show on CBS aired a segment on the new movie, “Civil War” which follows a team of journalists who travel across the United States during a rapidly escalating Second American Civil War, that has engulfed the entire nation. It offers an unflinching look at a nation divided and violent, not in the 1860s, but today. The movie is a warning about potential things to come and like all wars, males are the main combatants.

Bringing Healers and Health-Seekers Together in Community

            It is becoming increasingly clear that the separation between “healers” and “those seeking help” is an artificial divide. We are all in need of help and support in addressing mental health issues and we are all able to learn to help ourselves and others. I believe it is time to bring healers and seekers together. In a recent article, “The Future of Mental Health: Bringing Together Health Seekers and Providers,” I noted the following:

            “We are living in crazy times, where the whole world seems angry, anxious, stressed, and depressed and things are getting worse. In 2018 the American Psychological Association surveyed a thousand U.S. adults about their sources and levels of anxiety. The APA found that 39% of Americans reported being more anxious than they were in 2017, and an equal amount (39%) had the same level of anxiety as the previous year. That’s nearly 80% of the population experiencing anxiety.

What are people most concerned about? The APA survey reported that:

  • 68% worried about health and safety.
  • 67% reported finances as their source of anxiety.
  • 56% were stressed about our political system and elections.

            The APA also found that 63% of Americans felt that the future of the nation was a large source of stress. 59% checked the box that “the United States is at the lowest point they can remember in history.”

            Men in the United States die by suicide, on average, at a rate four times higher than women. But the suicide rate for men is even higher in older age groups.

            Clearly with statistics like these, we can no longer view “mental illness” as simply a problem of individuals. We are experiencing a problem of whole systems collapsing and we need to develop new systems to bring about repair. My colleague, Margaret J. Wheatley, author of the book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership says,

“Our task is to create Islands of Sanity, both internally and within our sphere of influence, where sanity prevails, where people can recall and practice the best human qualities of generosity, caring, creativity, and community.”

            It seems both appropriate and timely that we create a health community focused on men’s mental health as an “island of sanity” that can offer support and services to heal men, as well as our families, communities, and the world.

            We need a new approach for addressing men’s mental health issues. In the next parts of this series, I will address the important topic of depression and anxiety. I will examine the differences between the ways males express their dis-ease and wounds verses the way females do so. If you’d like to read more articles like these, please visit me at MenAlive.com and receive our free newsletter with new articles and tools you can use to improve your mental, emotional, and relational health. 

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Part 1 — Men and Mental Health, What Are We Missing?

            I  have been interested in men’s mental, emotional, and relational health for a long time. When I was five years old my mid-life father became increasingly irritable, angry, and depressed because he felt he couldn’t support our family, my mother and me, doing the work he loved. In desperation he took an overdose of sleeping pills to stop the pain. Fortunately, he didn’t die, but  our lives were never the same. He was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

             My father had been an actor in New York and moved to California with the hopes of working in the emerging movie and television industry. But like many creative artists of the period he ran into the “red scare,” was blacklisted, and couldn’t find work. His time in the mental hospital only made him worse. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, when it would happen to me, and how I could prevent it from happening to other families.

            After graduating from college I was accepted into U.C. San Francisco Medical School with hopes of becoming a psychiatrist. I hoped to learn and develop the skills to help men like my father as well as the families who love them. However, medicine, at the time, was too restrictive for me and I transferred to U.C. Berkeley where I earned my Master of Social Work Degree. My initial interest focused on addiction medicine, but I soon expanded my work to include Gender-Specific Medicine and men’s health. I later returned to school and earned a PhD in International Health. My dissertation research was published as a book: Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In.

            Following the birth of our first son, Jemal, in 1969 and daughter, Angela, in 1972, I launched MenAlive.com as my window to the world to house my books, articles, and on-line programs. I’ve had seventeen books published including international best-sellers Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, as well as trend-setting books including Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, Stress Relief for Men, and Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity.

            The field of gender-specific healing and men’s mental health has grown considerably since I began in 1972. I estimate that there are now at least a thousand organizations that focus on various aspects of men’s health. In 2021, I invited several colleagues who were doing great work to join me in what I called my Moonshot Mission for Mankind and Humanity. We began meeting monthly to get to know each other, share ideas, and create an on-line hub to bring individuals and organizations together to help men live fully healthy lives.

            With the help and support of one of our founding members, Joe Conrad, Founder and CEO of Man Therapy, we developed a website and introductory film at MoonshotforMankind.com.  I believe that men are both the “canaries in the coalmine” alerting us to the problems faced by humanity and also they are the key players in solving the problems that undermine the health of all. The Moonshot site shares our vision and call to connect:

“The journey to heal humanity has begun.”

Our Moonshot vision can be summarized simply:

            “We believe man’s mental, emotional, and relational health is the key to empowering men to live long and well. Our mission is to help men live healthier, happier, more cooperative lives—fulfilling lives of purpose and productivity, where men are supported and valued as they make positive contributions to their families, friends, and communities. When that happens, families grow stronger, communities prosper, and humanity takes its next leap forward.”

Men and Mental Health: What Are We Missing?

            According to report by Derek M. Griffith, PhD, Ayo Ogunbiyi, MPH, and Emily Jaeger, MPH at Georgetown University’s Center for Men’s Health Equity,

Men aren’t the problem. The way that we — society as a whole and health care providers specifically — treat them is.”

In an April 2, 2024 article titled “Men and mental health: What are we missing?,” they detail a number of important issues that we often fail to address including the following:

  • It is time that primary care physicians, mental health service providers, and policymakers look critically at the accuracy and utility of their assumptions and explanations for men’s rates of depression, anxiety, burnout, substance abuse, and other common mental health conditions.
  • 40% of men with a reported mental illness received mental health care services in the past year, compared with 52% of women with a reported mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the crisis of men’s mental health.
  • The uncertainty of the pandemic, loneliness from social distancing, financial stresses, relationship challenges, and other contextual factors contributed to increased rates of men having difficulty sleeping, alcohol and substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
  • Traditionally, men are socialized to define their worth by their ability to contribute economically to a household. However, as the labor market has shifted away from traditionally male-dominated jobs, men must now redefine their worth outside of their employment, income, and home.
  • The notion of “precarious manhood,” which is the belief that manhood is an achieved social status that must be earned and constantly defended, means that men may feel it is their character — rather than their behavior — being judged during more tumultuous economic times.
  • Even when men seek care, that care often falls short. Data from Canada and the United States found that more than 60% of men who died by suicide had accessed mental health care services within the previous year.
  • When men do seek mental health care services, it is not uncommon for them to feel that providers mislabel and underestimate their needs, and that these providers do not seem to have a genuine interest in their problems.
  • The fact that men are diagnosed with depression at lower rates than women, despite their higher rates of suicide, substance use, and violent behavior, suggests that more could be done to improve the tools used to diagnose men with depression.
  • While some mental health care service providers may be gender sensitive and recognize the ways that aggressiveness, alcohol use, and risky behavior are part of the presenting symptoms men with depression may exhibit, there are few courses and trainings that focus on gender differences in mental health, potentially leading to mental health care service providers being less equipped to serve and offer gender-sensitive resources to men.

            We need a new approach for addressing men’s mental health issues. In the second part of this series, I will address the reality that men’s mental health issues don’t just impact men. They impact everyone. If you’d like to read more articles like these, please visit me at MenAlive.com and receive our free newsletter with new articles and tools you can use to improve your mental, emotional, and relational health. 

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