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Why Men Need to be Weak...Sometimes

Waking up today and hearing the story of the Mississauga man apparently taking his own life, along with the life of his two young children, ran chills through my entire body. The three of them were found in a burning vehicle near Barrie last Friday, and police have come out to say that they do in fact believe the father intentionally killed himself and his own children. All of this followed by news of a Texas man shooting and killing four of his children, critically wounding his daughter, and murdering two other adults that were present in the home.

Now what I'm about to say is in no way a justification for these monstrous acts of horrific violence, and I'm not going to argue the politics of gun rights and gun ownership (common sense seems to elude most people who can make changes to these laws). Instead, I use these two examples only as a springboard to pose a question: Who do MEN turn to before they reach these critical breaking points? And the bigger question: How do we create a culture where men can feel comfortable and secure in turning to these groups and asking for help?

The latter I feel is the more difficult. While there certainly aren't enough centres for males dealing with adverse stress, teaching men how to cope with the responsibilities and social 'duties' that are assumed of them, the bigger problem is how do we get to a place in our society where it is not considered weak or demeaning or odd for a man to seek refuge in these settings.

Where are all the ads for "male" empowerment groups, or centres for mentally abused men? Even writing these words and making these these inferences in some way feels taboo; like I am appealing to society to allow our men to be sensitive, which in most  instances would castigate our sex and place us among the weak.

But as I read more and more about these types of cases mentioned in my intro, then reading stats that the suicide rate among males is approximately 3-7 times greater than that of females, claiming an average of 3000 lives a year in Canada alone - with rates peaking when men reach their forties - it's difficult for me not to suggest that we not only need to allow men to be weak (if that's how they will be assessed), but we should encourage it.

Men need outlets just as readily as females, and not feeling free to express moments of weakness, instead internalizing these emotions until they reach an irreversible boiling point, is causing what has been referred to as a silent epidemic. We are murdering men, or in fact causing them to murder themselves when some intervention would have surely saved some of the men that felt desperate, alone, with nowhere or no one to turn to.    

So my call on society is let our men be weak. Not all the time, but sometimes a weak moment can be empowering and literally save a life.
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Written by: Kern Carter author of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in all formats at www.kerncarter.com

 

One Caring Adult

I'm three hours into a strategic meeting with the executive team from BOSS Magazine before we thankfully break for a meal.  It's Sunday, two days before the new year and the last day of the regular season in the NFL.  Everyone is scattered throughout the meeting room, some in the seated area, others eating on the round table where we've been discussing different ways to push the magazine forward.

I'm standing in the kitchen with my food on the island speaking to one of the trustees that have invested in BOSS.  He also happens to be one of the directors of Doorsteps which he informs me is an organization based in Black Creek that runs multiple outreach programs for both youth and adults that extend far beyond their local community.

As we touch on different topics during the short break, I ask him a question I've asked several community leaders and activists over the past year: "What's the difference?" What is the difference between us and them?  He asks me to elaborate and I continue.  I ask how is it that two people can come from exactly the same priority neighbourhood, share a generally similar experience of poverty, exposure to drugs and violence, marginalization, yet one of those individuals will overcome and escape the mental trap to live a positive and productive life, and the other will succumb to the trap and become a victim and perpetrator of violence, abuse and sell drugs, and become a drain on society.

"One caring adult," he says.  I wait for him to get into some elaborate digression about causality and social infrastructure, or the lack of government support, but he says none of that.  "One caring adult," he repeats.  "The difference between someone escaping and someone getting caught is often one caring adult."

By then our lunch break was over and everyone was back at the round table.  One caring adult.  I repeated the phrase over and over in my head.  One caring adult.  At first I was somewhat relieved.  "That's all it takes," I thought.  "So then there is hope."  But then I thought about how many people I know and grew up with that are trapped.  Then I thought about all the drugs and violence and apathy within the priority communities, and the families of the people in these communities and I wondered, One caring adult.  Do none of these people that are trapped have at least one caring adult in their lives? Not one person to say "I am here for you."  Not one person to say "you're body is precious," or "love yourself first because you are worth it."  This can't be true.  This can't be right.

Throughout the next few hours of the meeting, my mind reflected back to this possibility. I wasn't sure which way to interpret this hypothesis, if I should be optimistic or skeptical.  I decided to be hopeful, to believe that we need to give these trapped minds a chance.  I can be that one caring adult, any of us can.  Anyone living through the struggle needs to seek out this one caring adult and we need to make ourselves available.  One caring adult.  That's all it takes.  Powerful in its simplicity, practical in its application.  Let's create hope for all of those that are trapped and be their escape.  One caring adult.  An enlightening vision indeed.
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Read my novel "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com.

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