Category Archives: Men and boys’ blog

Post 3 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Suicide Prevention Awareness

Scott Young, Ph.D.

By Dr. Scott Young, licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

(September 2017) Hi All! For our blog topic this month, I want to open a discussion about a tough topic. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and while this is an important topic for us all to consider, it is especially important to open a dialogue with boys and men about suicide. For various reasons, we know from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) that girls and women are far more likely (3x) to ATTEMPT suicide during the course of their lives; however, we also know that boys and men are far more likely to COMPLETE suicide (3.5-4x) than girls and women.

Furthermore, we know from a recent study at the University of Iowa, that farmers have been particularly vulnerable to the lure of suicide since the farm crisis of the 80s and continuing today. I’d like to give just a few more statistics to drive home how important this discussion really is to we Iowans. Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death overall, here in Iowa, and is the 2nd leading cause of death among Iowans age 15-34. In my clinical practice, I’ve also seen a deeply troubling trend toward more suicidality among our teenagers.

The above statistics make a chill run down my spine, and are very sobering. They also highlight some opportunities for all of us, male and female, to examine how we can play a part in changing the lives those statistics represent. It is within all our power to educate ourselves on risk factors, signs of risk for suicide, and ways to help ourselves and/or others who face thoughts of suicide. To that end, I’d like to share some thoughts and resources in the hopes they may prove helpful to you.

  • No one is immune to the effects of suicide. While I’ve shared above some demographic information about particular risks, anyone can be struggling!
  • Most people who experience suicidal thoughts are in great pain and/or have suffered great loss, such as loss of job, romantic partnership, respect, or legal freedoms. To view people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and behaviors as “weak” downplays their pain, and ignores that we all could find ourselves in their shoes.
  • People who have supportive relationships and communities, including religious and spiritual communities, are less likely to suicide. They are also more likely to receive treatment for underlying physical and mental health concerns that put them at risk for suicide.
  • When in doubt, don’t hesitate to talk about suicide! There is no evidence that asking someone or talking about suicide “puts the idea in their head.” Since males can often receive messages about being the “strong silent type”, we especially need others to check in with us about suicide so we can feel ok to open up. Even if someone is shocked or mad on the surface because you asked, doesn’t mean you were wrong to ask out of care and concern.
  • Men are less likely to seek help for many health concerns, especially traditional mental health help. Don’t assume that anyone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts is getting help, or that others know and are taking care of that person!
  • There are supports available. Whether for you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reaching out for help can be the most difficult and important thing. Resources for help can be found through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at: https://afsp.org/find-support/. You can also seek emergency assistance from a local hospital or 911 call, and non-emergency assistance from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center at (515) 274-4006.
  • For more information, please see the following resources:

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Men/boys and mental health, more blog posts here: www.dmpcc.org/men

 

Survivor of Suicide Loss Support Group for women and men: 

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center offers a monthly support group for survivors of suicide loss. It matters not how long ago your loss. For more information: www.dmpcc.org/survivor

Post 2 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Unique perspectives

Edited by Zeb Treloar-Reid

Contributors: Dick Douglass, Scott Young, Zeb Treloar-Reid, Jim Hayes, Mark Minear

We all have our own unique perspectives on masculinity, manhood, boys, and men. It’s sometimes hard to piece together whether there are any significant or meaningful differences when it comes to gender. We all come to gender from different places, recognizing that every person is unique and yet there are commonalities between all people. This blog post will share some of the unique perspectives of some of the contributors of this blog, trusting that our unique and communal perspectives will enhance our conversation about men and boys.

Dick Douglass, L.I.S.W.

Our first conversation partner is Dick Douglass, L.I.S.W., a long-time counselor at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. “Last year when Mark walked across the state of Iowa to raise awareness about the mental health needs of men and boys, I was inspired by his passion and his compassion. The committee formed at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center to further explore this mission is a wonderfully diverse group in terms of the gender spectrum. In our discussions, we’ve been able to raise concerns and challenge assumptions, all with a commitment to understand alternative perspectives with an abiding mutual respect. These are values I hope we can nurture as we expand our community dialogue through the blog. Now, late in my career, I witness each day the courage male clients have to explore their inner experience, to move beyond the masculine, protective shield of silence, withdrawal, and anger into an awareness of their full emotional range. Out of this embracing of vulnerability and genuine sharing of self with others comes a strength and resilience that frees them to live more fully in a challenging world. My hope is our blog will open rich discussions, expand our thinking, and help us all be more effective in serving this population.”

Scott Young, Ph.D.

Secondly, we turn to Scott P. Young, Ph.D., a staff psychologist who works with both men and boys at the Center, “Because of my interest working with guys across the lifespan, I’m looking forward to this blog focusing on boys, men, masculinity, maleness, and mental health.  I’m particularly interested in conversations around feelings, and spend a fair amount of time in my therapy work talking with boys, adolescents, men, and older men about their feelings.  For that matter, I also have to admit to spending a fair amount of time in therapy talking with girls and women about the feelings of the boys and men in their lives too!  In jest and with some seriousness, I often talk about “the 4 feelings” we guys are “allowed” to have.  So having some conversation about how we understand feelings in guys is a topic to which I hope to offer some contribution.  I’m excited to share these conversations, and thank Dr. Mark Minear and the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center for engaging this topic.”

Zeb Treloar-Reid, M.Div.

Next, is Zeb Treloar-Reid, M.Div., a member of the support staff at the Center, “I guess I’m still working out what it means to be masculine or be a man. I was socialized female and embraced my own manhood in my senior year of college. I’ve learned a lot since coming out as transgender, but sometimes manhood feels more confining than the feminist experience I had growing up. Men are harassed for wearing certain clothes, for painting their nails, for expressing a full range of emotions. I’ve learned that this constraint especially affects my heterosexual friends. I’m interested in exploring our society’s ideals of what it means to be a man, especially what it means to be a cis-gender heterosexual man, looking at their experiences through the lens of my own transgender, gay experience. I want to explore all of what people mean when they say ‘man up’.”

 

James E. Hayes, D. Min.

Our executive director, Jim Hayes, D.Min., who began his work at the Center in January of 2017. “I have been amazed at the variety of ways we live out our mission of encouraging hope and healing through counseling and education. This certainly includes our work with boys and men. I have been impressed with the candid conversations we have had about how to best serve all on the gender spectrum—and of some of the unique issues for dealing with the varieties of the masculine experience. I grew up in a blue collar, for the most part, Caucasian environment. Homophobia was a norm through most of my adolescence. It was only when my cultural horizons expanded in college and beyond that I realized how many of my male friends struggled with where they fit in on the spectrum and responded to the question of “what does it mean to be a man?” These friends caused me to ask similar questions of myself. I spent much of my adult life surrounded by other celibate men in ministry, then married late and had kids. Now I’m surrounded by women at home—a spouse and two daughters—and live in a professional world (human services) that is seemingly more attractive to women than men, given the numbers of those entering these professions. I am excited that our blog will help us all to explore these questions a bit. I’m not sure how many answers we’ll provide, but hope that the questions help us all to explore what it means to be human and fully alive.”

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

And finally, Mark Minear, Ph.D., a staff psychologist who began this conversation, has some thoughts and reflections for all of us to ponder. “While growing up in my family of nine in small town Iowa, I had parents, siblings, friends, a church family, school teachers, and a community show me what it means to be a human being; and, at the same time, a father, two older brothers, school teachers, and church members show me what it means to be a man.  Unfortunately, my father was the angriest person I have ever known in my life (of course, it was upfront and personal); in fact, I don’t know if I hardly ever observed any other emotion in him other than, perhaps, neutral situations and occasional moments of enjoyment when he played his music.  And, with him as my example, I grew up with that typical stereotype about men and their rage.  Since then, I have often wondered: What is with this notion that the only emotion that men in our culture have permission to fully express is that of anger?

Our lives are so full of a broad and variety of emotional experiences—joy, fear, excitement, sadness, curiosity, grief, gladness, frustration, peace, courage, disgust, surprise, irritability, anticipation… and, yes, even anger!  (Google and check out Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions” sometime—an interesting structure to understanding feelings and their levels of intensity.)  I often gently remind my clients that, while emotions may be pleasant or painful, they are certainly not positive or negative, good or bad, right or wrong; they are simply all teachers trying to get our attention and tell us something important about what is going on inside of us.

So… men and boys, I would invite you to embrace the full range of feelings!  Life is inviting you to experience it in all of its entirety!  Don’t miss out on the complete adventure… for when you welcome the painful, you are more fully able to experience the bliss as well.  All emotions then become gifts in our lives – and life becomes as meaningful as it possible can across these brief years of our earthly pilgrimages.”

In sharing our experiences, our reflections, and our hopes, we hope that both our uniqueness and our commonality shine through. As we each share our own posts in the coming months, we hope you will reflect on the uniqueness and commonality of your own experience, whether you are a man, boy, loved one, or friend of men and boys. Together we can learn much about this experience of gender.

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Boys’ and men’s blog homepage: www.dmpcc.org/men

Men, Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

Welcome to our new blog about mental health issues specific to men and boys. Please watch for monthly posts from a variety of clinicians at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

Post 5:: Men/Boys and Mental Health: The Courage to Seek Intimacy

Post 4:: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Provider Anxiety

Post 3 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Post 2 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: Unique Perspectives

Post 1 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

 

 

Post 1 :: Men/Boys and Mental Health: An Ongoing Conversation

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

by Mark Minear, Ph.D., licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

(June 2017) The issues facing men/boys with regard to mental health are no more or less diverse, complex, or complicated than those facing women/girls; in some respects, however, they are, at times, different.  And, perhaps, those issues are more challenging with these two basic, well-researched facts: (1) that men are less likely to reach out for professional mental health services when they need it, while at the same time, (2) that men are also much more likely to give up in despair and end their lives by suicide when they are depressed.

One year ago when I walked across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River, my focus was on men/boys and mental health while attempting to raise both awareness as well as financial support for the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s counseling assistance fund for men/boys.  (After all, the Center has been very diligent for over the past 20 years with a Women Helping Women influence; and we have lacked options for how men might be able to help men—or how to emphasize the issues facing men and boys.)  Upon the completion of my trek, the Center was ready for me to continue my blog to highlight men’s and boys’ emotional and psychological needs, consider how our Center could be more effective in reaching out to men and boys, and expand and strengthen our services to make them more meaningful with healing and empowerment to men and boys.

This led to a series of conversations over the past year among the men employed at the Center with recognition of our diversity and even some ambivalence in the optimal ways to communicate with men and boys: defining the masculine experience, especially across generations as well as within a cohort, is difficult, limiting, and ambiguous.  What does it mean to be masculine?  Simply being confronted with that question immediately brings up images, prejudices, and stereotypes, for all of us.  It seems that we could simply honor the two long-held affirmations of (1) “how every person is unique” and (2) “folks are the same the whole world over”—and this could be the end of the discussion!  As a matter of fact, the eight of us at the Center even had an exhilarating deliberation about what we should name this blog—acquiescing to the idea that nothing can be said about men or boys as a population… it all depends upon individual differences anyway.

But it does seem to be important, and hopefully helpful, to get us all to think about what individual men and boys might need—raising the questions pushes us all to reflect, discuss, inquire, re-evaluate.  For instance, does depression or trauma or grief generally look different in men/boys than in women/girls?  And what about shame—how might men/boys present with the emotional distress of shame… or fear or insecurity or anxiety or _______________?

Men are in trouble (as well as boys who grow up in our culture): they often seem to sink alone instead of asking for help—sometimes digging their holes deeper by their lack of healthy coping responses and resources; they often withhold from others what they consider to be indications of their weaknesses; and they often react with anger instead of embracing the deeper, more basic emotions of hurt, fear, or sadness.  Men—and boys following their male role models and buying in to the messages in our current society—seem primarily equipped to express one emotion: rage.

Over the coming months, please watch for this blog and make your contributions.  Other writers here at the Center will join the conversation, but we want to keep it in the form of a blog so you can respond and add to the discussion.  I believe that you can enhance this conversation!  Perhaps there in nothing new to be said about men/boys and their emotional and psychological needs—or at least nothing that can be universally clarifying about this topic; or, perhaps, some written reflections might just speak to someone’s condition—the man who is in emotional pain, the boy who is hurting and scared, or the wife, mother, sister, daughter who cares and is concerned!

Men’s blog homepage: www.dmpcc.org/men

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In 2016 Mark Minear walked across the state of Iowa to raise awareness and funds for men and boys’ mental health. Read his daily reflections here: www.dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark.