In connection with the Newtown tragedy, there has been much talk in the past week about the need for mental health services. There doesn’t seem to be a lot, so far, about what that means or how that looks. It’s pretty obvious to most people that people like the gunman Adam Lanza, are not mentally and emotionally stable. But what hasn’t really been talked about is that Adam and the killers in the other major public shootings this year, have been men. There are of course other killings that have been committed by women, but a majority of killings in this country, if not worldwide, are carried out by men. And yet there is still a societal taboo against men getting help.
When there is talk about the need for mental health services, all I can think is that even if there are services available, there is still that stigma against men taking advantage of those services. Stereotypically, men are supposed to be brave and strong. They are supposed to be able to take down the monsters, not be plagued by them internally. They are supposed to fight back and to walk off pain. But what if they can’t?
I think we’ve seen the answer to that question.
We get the Newtown massacre. Or the movie theater one. Or the mall. Or the temple. Or domestic violence murders. Or any number of violent crimes.
It is not merely that we as a country must provide accessible mental health services, but that we change our views of who should go to therapy, of who should get help, of when that help should occur. It means we change our belief about men not needing help.
The system of patriarchy says men are on top. They are in charge. They are all knowing. They can handle anything thrown at them. They are the heroes, the ones who will save everyone else (women, children, animals, property). And Geez- That’s a lot of pressure!
The reality is men are human. For the society to allow men to get help, we must acknowledge they are human and that sometimes life is hard for everyone. Men must understand that getting help isn’t a failure. Society has to back them up in understanding that. It’s not a disgrace to go to therapy. It’s not weak. It’s an exploration of the self in this world.
We should be curious about our thoughts, about our feelings, about our plans, about our dreams, and about our lives. All of this is mental health. Can you share all of that with someone else? Can you trust someone else enough to explore that stuff with them?
If there is something you are up to that you can’t share with a therapist, maybe you should go talk to one. Would Adam Lanza have been able to talk about his plan with a therapist? Probably not- and he might not have, but if he had been seeing someone regularly, who was on his side, helping him through the hard time he was having, this tragedy would have hopefully been avoided.
This isn’t to say every tragedy is avoidable, but receiving mental health services can help prevent some. Having it be a normal thing for people to check out their mental health can prevent tragedy. If our body hurts we get it checked out. What if our mind or our feelings, our selves hurt? We also need to check that out.
In order for people to be able to get help, we need for that to be normal in the society. That means we all need to check in about our mental health, our emotional health. What does that mean? Talk to a therapist, a counselor, trustworthy religious personnel- when you are having a hard time. When you feel sad. When you are confused. When you are angry. Encourage others to get help. Talk about when you needed to do that.
The internet is a great place to find therapists and therapeutic programs BTW
I have a friend whose father died a few years back. I asked him if he saw a therapist. He told me no, he just drank a lot. If you have to cope with something with alcohol or drugs, you’re not coping well. Talk to someone. We all must do this more. It needs to be the norm, otherwise it will still be taboo for men. And let’s face it, men also need help. We all do from time to time.
Make it acceptable! Make it important! Make it the norm!
Healthy mental states for all!