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.
Written by: Kern Carter author of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in all formats at www.kerncarter.com