Mental health and the American male - opinion

Today, too many men are angry, broken and enraged. Too many are becoming dangerous. They feel bullied, invisible, ignored and vengeful.

Mental health [illustrative] (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Mental health [illustrative]
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

For the past few weeks, I’ve focused in my columns on the global mental health crisis. Today, I want to specifically focus on how it affects men.

The hyper-competitive environment in which men are immersed today is exacerbating male insecurity to an unsustainable level. The worth of a man is judged primarily by one overarching consideration: his professional success, measured in how much money he has, how much power he has accrued, how young and fit he looks, and how recognizable he’s become.

Will Smith recently broke his silence over his meltdown at the Oscars and his assault on Chris Rock. He apologized to the comedian for his shocking behavior.

Yet, by all accounts, Smith was always a decent man and an especially loving family man.

How many more public figures are going to combust before our eyes before we make the decision to start a real dialogue about the broken state of men in America? How many more talented men will see their careers and marriages go up in flames before they make the decision to heal?

 Busting the stigma of mental health (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Busting the stigma of mental health (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2008, I published a book called The Broken American Male that called for just that: a real conversation about the sky-high levels of male violence, depression, porn addiction and infidelity. But even I could not predict that 20-something, white men would become the leading demographic in regards to mass shootings in schools and malls.

Today, too many men are angry, broken and enraged. Too many are becoming dangerous. They feel bullied, invisible, ignored and vengeful.

Today, too many men feel dehumanized by a culture that values their hands and not their hearts, their productivity and not their emotions, and their ability to acquire rather than their ability to connect. Many, therefore, only relate to women with their hands, as well. Hence, they cannot sustain an emotional attachment to the gentler sex.

So they accommodated her. Since these men use money as a commodity by which to purchase self-esteem, they begin to develop toxic misogyny, where they believe that women are only interested in successful men.

In their insecure states, they are not strong enough to treat women as equals. They have to have a false sense of domination. Much of this accommodation of women is being exacerbated by pornography, which depicts women as shallow playthings born to satisfy male lust.

Women are there, in their own minds, to cater to their every need and to make their beds in a metaphorical, as well as a literal sense. That’s what happens when you create a generation of men who know how to acquire rather than relate.

What is needed is a new set of masculine values that champions the family man over the Wall Street tycoon, the man of faith or the man of bitcoin, the father who reads his children bedtime stories rather than market reports and the husband who channels his erotic energy toward his wife rather than to celluloid images on Pornhub.

What if men expressed their emotions?

IMAGINE IF one of society’s billionaires, NBA superstars or senators got up and gave the following speech:

“You may wonder why a bitcoin billionaire/Super Bowl champion/senator would feel unaccomplished. But the truth is that no matter what I achieve it just goes into a bottomless, inner pit. I never feel good about myself. No matter how many elections I win or billions of dollars I make, I cannot silence the voice within me that whispers that I’m worthless. I am constantly at war with myself, looking for sustainable self-worth.

“I live in constant fear of being ordinary. It seems there is always someone ahead of me more accomplished and worthy, with a bright future, while I live on laurels of the past. I can’t seem to quiet the demons in my head, which also explains some of my other reported behavior. I am a man with a heart, who wants to be good. I say that sincerely. But I can be tough on my subordinates because I always feel like I am just treading water and when they make mistakes, they sink me.

“But the courage of men like Olympian Michael Phelps and superstar Shawn Mendes has made me dig deep within myself to find similar courage to speak out. They have taught me that if I do not finally get control over these toxic inner voices and start taking joy from my life and satisfaction with who I am, even when I’m not thrilling audiences, then happiness will forever elude me. The darkness is just going to grow until it takes me over completely. And I have decided that I want to live in the light.

“So I’ve decided first and foremost that I am going to have a conversation with my wife about some of the mistakes I’ve made. I’m going to come clean. I want her to be not just my partner, but my soul mate. I am going to therefore invite her into the inner chambers of my heart and what she discovers isn’t always going to be pretty. But it’s me – damaged and broken – but still me, loving, real, authentic me. And I need her comfort and support. Which is why I married her in the first place.

“Second, I’ve decided to have this conversation with all of you, notwithstanding how painful it has felt. I’m having the conversation because it’s time that myself and other men who suffer from mental health challenges shared the unnatural feelings of unworthiness that plague us, that no seat in Congress and no NBA ring can remedy, and no amount of money can cure. Only we can cure it by having better, more deeply-seated values, more intimate and fulfilling relationships and making more selfless contributions to our communities.

“That’s what I’m committed to today. I will try to never again define myself solely by my professional achievements but mostly by the code of male honor that I try and observe as a gentleman. I want to be committed to my marriage in thought, speech and action. I want to be a loyal friend and a devoted son. And I want to be an inspiration to the public - warts and all.

“I realize that these commitments I’m making today can change tomorrow. So, I have also found a moral authority – someone I respect – to speak to twice a week over the next few months to help me remain grounded and rooted in these important values that ought to define my public and private life. I have also given my wife the password for every online account I have so she has complete access to my online life, which is the way it should be for a husband and wife who should be joined in every way.

“Again, I am sorry for giving you all the runaround. But in sharing my heart, I feel liberated, even as I am humbled.”

May God bless you all and may God grant healing to the men of America and continue to bless this majestic and great nation.

The writer, America’s Rabbi, is the best-selling author of Kosher Sex, The Broken American Male, and Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.