Robert Bly, acclaimed author of Iron John once said, “There are a lot of men who are healthier at age 50 than they have ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone.”
I suppose the author is speaking largely to the value of experience, as once we men acquire firsthand knowledge of something, the more comfortable we become with it.
Take fly-casting, for instance. I missed out on fly-fishing for many years because I was concerned I wouldn’t be good at it and would be laughed off the river. Although in reality, I really wasn’t good at it to start, once I made my mind up to learn, I rapidly gained confidence and skill level.
Now, I can mend a line with the best of them and even bring a fish to net from time to time. The promise of learning, developing skills and ultimately succeeding were enough to motivate me beyond my initial fear of ridicule and allowed me to take the initial leap – or make that first cast in this instance.
So let’s apply the same logic to therapy. Wait. Before you run outside or navigate away from this page to check the Broncos score, just hear me out. Learning, skill development and realizing success are all part of therapeutic experiences for many people every day – including men. OK, I’ll give you that, at first glance, fly-fishing seems more popular, fun and acceptable for men to engage in than therapy.
Yes, fishing probably is an easier leap for men to make than is therapy. But just because it can be challenging doesn’t decrease the value of therapy. I also think there’s a huge opportunity worth capitalizing on as evidenced by studies indicating that Colorado has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation and that men are far more likely to complete suicide than are women.
So what keeps men from making that initial therapy appointment? While some of the hesitance can be attributed to fear alone, I think the reasons may be more complex. Some pieces to consider are that the concept of therapy was not a topic that historically was covered in health classes growing up and that therapy doesn’t quite jibe with the tenants of rugged individualism or other parts of the anecdotal “Man 101”class we men experience throughout our formative years.
Fortunately, the information age and the need to address our alarming suicide rates have combined to produce Mantherapy.org, which, as the site says, is “a resource to help men with any problem that life sends their way, something to set them straight on the realities of suicide and mental health, and in the end, a tool to help put a stop to the suicide deaths of so many of our men.”
I encourage you to visit this site and share it with men in your life – as getting help now is even easier than putting on waders.
Mark White is director of quality for Axis Health System. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 335-2217.