Roseburg, Newtown, Columbine… who will be next?
As we endure the next few days of TV pundits chattering about this and that on the media, two issues dominate the current news cycle: a) women’s health (Planned Parenthood), and b) another mass shooting – always by males who, in the course of revealing the facts, will be mentally ill and not receiving care.
As a topical issue, Planned Parenthood will go away. Mass shootings will not.
Because it is only a matter of time until we experience another one.
Untreated mentally ill young men are not going away. They live all around us in our communities and on our college campuses. Most will never be violent toward others, but thousands will be violent toward themselves. Yet their brain disorders appear not to matter to us. Until, as always, it is too late.
Any Google search will find plenty of male health disparities, one of which is that death by suicide ranks near the top of causes of death, especially in Native American communities.
Where is men’s health?
Where is Planned Fatherhood?
Where is the federal funding for helping young men? Obama has offered some through his My Brother’s Keeper Program, but this a fledgling still in its nest.
The Movember men’s health movement – not a spelling error – came from Down Under and is starting up here in the US. It has a long way to go but does focus on mental health.
In the meantime, where do young men find mentors, seniors, elders, and adult male role-models to help them grow in healthy young men sound of body and mind?
I submit for consideration that all the pundit talk about enhancing access to mental health services will not address a fundamental piece of male psychology, and that is that “Call us for help” is a failed strategy, especially for those at risk of suicide and homicide.
I try to imagine 007 calling a crisis line. Or this young man in Oregon picking up the phone to call a mental health center instead of picking up a magazine of ammo. Except as a Saturday Night Live skit, neither of these images compute.
Currently, when young men turn 18 we toss them out. We defund them. We pull any safety net from under them. Fend for yourself, we say. Find a job we advise. Join the Army. Make yourself useful.
And if you don’t? Then you are a burden on the rest of us.
Did you say burden? A young suicidal patient of mine who had suffered a crushed foot in a mining accident and had to have an amputation said to me, “If a man can’t work he might as well be dead.”
How many “mass murder shooters” had jobs, girlfriends, children they were providing for, or a duty to others in any form whatever?
If you are not “burdened” as a male with a day job, bills to pay, helping a friend put on a new roof – you are, as men often say, “As useless as a bicycle for a fish.”
Useless men are dangerous men. Just look at Jihadist recruits.
Consider that 30,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in the US and that the same number kill themselves.
Now consider that from 2007 to 2015 the American Journal of Men’s Health published roughly 4 articles with the word “suicide” in the title, and more than 1,000 with the words “prostate cancer” in the title.
In my parallax view of the world something is wrong with this picture.
If we really want to help young at-risk males feel good about themselves and stop shooting up our communities and themselves, we’re going to have to rethink a) our funding for male suicide research, b) our attitudes toward young men, c) our mental health delivery system, and d) how we are going to get on the ground and do something different to enlist young men and boys into their own development and positive growth.
But most of all, we need to put them to work. We need to burden them with adult male responsibilities. We need to begin – again – a Civilian Conservation Corps.
In the depths of the Great Depression, the CCC put three million unemployed young men at labor doing important work to help build a young country. (If you are not familiar with the CCC see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps.)
That same beloved country is falling apart. It is in disrepair. Bridges collapse. Forests need thinning. Blue highways and city streets crumble under our tires. The trails through the mountains those young men built are now tangles of vines and alder brush.
That country needs its young men.
Oh, and I am writing this from a 75-year-old CCC-built supervisor’s log cabin in the mountains of Northern Idaho. The 800 young men who built this place and miles upon miles of nearby roads and trails and tunnels in this forest came from New York, New Jersey, and Arkansas. Everyone a volunteer, they came with a willing heart.
Their stories abound hereabouts and are full of the pride of accomplishment. Travel to a far place. Becoming a part of something bigger than themselves. With ax, shovel, and sweat, they grew into men.
An old timer said to me of his CCC days, “Best time of my life.”