Manscaping, metrosexuality, hipsters and the like – the script has certainly flipped for men in the last 10+ years. In my father’s heyday, men paid for everything, they didn’t cry and they certainly didn’t speak openly about their emotions. Things are very different today. It’s common for couples to go “dutch” (splitting the check), men do cry and some even publicly address their emotions.
This is marked progress in the men’s mental health arena, and it makes me very hopeful for my sons’ generation. However, it does little to inspire the 50+ year old men who will always operate under the “real men don’t cry” mentality. My own father is the living definition of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks.
I have long suspected he wrestles with Bipolar Disorder just like me. I can’t even count the times I’ve tried to discuss it with him. His response usually runs along the lines of “well, I’ve lived this long without help and I’m too old to change now”.
Fair enough, Daddy, fair enough.
I’d be lying if I said the mindset doesn’t worry me though. His father was hospitalized for a brief time following his service in the Korean War. It’s only been quietly referred to as a “breakdown”. Supposedly nothing else is known beyond that. Another male in my family attempted suicide. It’s now described as an accident while he was cleaning his gun. And thus the silence around men’s mental health in my family continues.
I’m not alone in failed attempts to reach that generation. Sadly, this failure often results in deadly consequences. According to an article written by Dr. Narveen Dosanjh for The Good Men Project, “Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to lethally complete it when they do make an attempt.”
Narveen goes on to say, “We have to accept that we live in a culture where men often feel pressure to conform to an unrealistic macho image. The measure of their masculinity seems to have an inverse relationship to the expression of their vulnerability, and it is literally making them sick. Real men are not supposed to be weak, break down, or cry. They are supposed to be invincible, unbreakable super-heroes. Except, they are not. They are only human.”
So where does this leave daughters like me? Speaking only from my experience, I try to talk candidly with my father about my own struggles. Even though I know he will likely never open up fully about his own situation, I can only hope that maybe he will learn a little from mine. I hope that my willingness to open up will be the door to healing and help if he ever needs to walk through it.
To all the tougher-than-nails men out there, asking for help doesn’t make you less of a man. Even Superman cried …
And he remains the Man of Steel.