Boys In Crisis
THE SURPRISING FACES OF CHANGE
If you are the parent of a boy, important change is starting to occur and it’s something that could make a huge difference for your son.
Lately, there are a lot of news articles about boys in crisis. School shootings, suicides, and violent acts are the extremes. But there are other signs that aren’t talked about as much.
Often, boys are told from a young age, to bury their feelings and to “tough it out”. Don’t cry, don’t feel, don’t complain. This is particularly common with boys who compete in sports. Although a lot are able to work through their feelings or find coping strategies, too many won’t. Over time, this can have devastating effects. While it’s tough for all young people to handle the stresses, pressures and challenges they must face in everyday life, boys seem to have a more difficult time. Many never ask for help because they feel it will make them look like less than a man. The statistics speak volumes, about 1 in 6 adults suffer from mental illness, but men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide and 3 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than women. (Source: Men’s Health Forum).
In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Michael Ian Black, an author/actor, recently wrote, “Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated…They are so trapped and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel because the language that is used to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.”
But a shift may be starting to occur. Within the last two and a half weeks, three big time NBA players and one college player have told the world that they struggle with mental illness. No magic wand can be waved around to solve this problem quickly. But seeing some of the most masculine and successful men on the planet open up should give us a glimmer of hope.
It’s not that athletes haven’t opened up before, it’s just that typically they do it after they’ve been caught doing something or have hit rock bottom. These men did it because they want to get the word out; they don’t want to suffer in silence anymore and they don’t want others to either. As Kevin Love put it, they want all people to know that “everyone is going through something” and that it’s OK to talk about it and get help.
It started with The University of Virginia’s Isaiah Wilkins’ article about his battle with depression. Then last week, Raptor’s guard, DeMar DeRozan opened up to the Toronto Star about his depression. Then after seeing DeRozan talk about it, Kevin Love decided he could no longer be silent. In a Players Tribune Article Love describes in great detail a recent panic attack he had during a game.
“One of the reasons I wanted to write this comes from reading DeMar’s comments last week about depression,” Love explained. “I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles – all kinds of things – and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them.”
Are you noticing a pattern here? After seeing both DeRozan and Love talk about it, Wizards forward, Kelly Oubre, Jr. decided he too wanted to share his story…
“I can definitely relate to it all. … I’m really good at keeping a poker face because when I was growing up my dad always told me, ‘Don’t let anybody see you weak.’ Nobody sees that I’m weak, but deep down inside I am going through a lot.”
So, what does this mean? A lot, actually. If some of the most masculine and successful men on our planet can open up and talk about this, just think what signal this sends to all the young men out there who idolize these guys. It’s creating a domino effect; more and more men will continue to talk.
These are small, subtle signs of men showing real feelings and emotions and not being afraid to be open and vulnerable. It’s just a small shift, but over time, a lot of small shifts, can have a huge impact.
Choose to make a change right now. Here are the links to the articles describing these four men and their stories. Sit down with your kids, read their stories and start the discussion. Maybe you can affect change.
Isaiah Wilkins on ESPN.com – February 9th
DeMar DeRozan Toronto Star Article – February 25th
Kevin Love Player’s Tribune Article – March 6th
Kelly Oubre Junior with NBC – March 7th