I did an interview with Dr. John Ogrodniczuk last week and felt forced to write a piece about depression in men. You can listen or watch that interview on Saturday, October 23. All links are at the end of this article.
For some background, Dr. John Ogrodniczuk is a professor of psychiatry and director of the psychotherapy program at the University of British Columbia. In 2015, he launched Heads Up Guys, an online resource that supports men in their fight against depression by providing tips, tools, information on professional services and stories of success.
Our wonderful conversation really made me think about the real struggles men face in terms of mental health, and where these problems are really rooted. Trauma, responsibility, tragedy, lack of purpose, loneliness, all these factors contribute to mental struggles. However, for me, looking back on my own life and experiences, it must be deeper than that.
I am now reaching the age where I can gaze back in my life and gather a lot of information about my experiences and interactions. As we age and become more conscious and aware, we should understand the patterns around us. As a man who has lived 37 years in different countries and cultures, the role we men have in society has changed.
In this article, I attempt to find a route to our 2021 depressions, and perhaps point to possible solutions. These are my own thoughts and opinions, things I felt passionately about.
In 2021, what's missing?
This is a huge question that many psychotherapists have attempted to answer. From Dr. Ogrodniczuk's brilliant work, we know that men report two main factors that lead to their depression: lack of purpose and loneliness. How do they get to those places? Most people are certainly not born alone or without purpose.
Young men seem to be missing mentors. Mentors in the form of real people in the lives of these young men. Sure, we have celebrities and athletes, but the character that these people play on social media, and even on the field, is so filtered by non-sense that it is hard to believe that any of these people is genuine in anything they do.
If you asked me when I was 15, who do you look up to? I would have given you an answer like "Eric Cantona" or "Paul Scholes" (both soccer players), but apart from a strong connection to a sport I loved, these people never mentored me or gave me anything. Looking back, the answer to this question is obvious. My parents, grandfather and older brothers. I certainly didn't have the grasp of my ego when I was 15 to give them this kind of credit.
My family loved me when I needed it, and gave me a kick up the butt when I needed it. They pushed me, encouraged me, and, above all, gave me warmth and love in the face of failure. This was the ultimate superpower. I knew that my family would love and respect me if I tried my best and failed. It was never failing, it was learning.
Be it fathers, siblings, teachers or other people in real life, we all need people to love us, push us and teach us on our way. I believe that the exposure to different types of adults as we grow up is an essential part of learning about who we are and how we can integrate successfully.
Rite of Passage
Deciding not to take lessons from the past is an error that people cannot afford to make. In the Western World, we have made an immense one. We do not have a clear transition from boys to men. Ancient cultures (some still do) perform ceremonies or rituals in which an individual leaves one group and enters another. Childhood to manhood. It shows a significant change for the individual and his role in society.
Many countries still have mandatory military services, and fewer have transitions that involve more ancient traditions of age. Spending time alone in nature and returning as a man, for example. These immensely important traditions have been lost in the Western World, and at what cost?
The result is a remarkable number of 30-year-old men who lack responsibility and purpose.
Of course, there is more to it than transitions and role models. I am sure that whole books on this subject have been written.
Where did we go wrong?
Another huge question, which I will take a short stab at. When I ask myself these questions, three things come to mind, but there are no doubt many more.
We live in such a stimulating world. Our precious minds and bodies are super sensitive to the explosion of external stimuli. Our ancient biology lies far behind what 2021 has to offer.
Technological advances are staggering, but if our human evolution cannot keep up with these new powerful novelties, we will likely encounter physical and psychological problems. When we become so addicted and dependent on new experiences, we struggle to stay focused and struggle for purpose.
Children simply don't play outside anymore. Playing with sticks, rocks and in the mud requires an internal effort to use our creative brain to play imaginatively. Much of our brain development takes place at a young age, and if we do not fire and wire these creative brain regions, our internal ability to create becomes inferior. If we rely on external factors (TV, mobile phones) to stimulate us, we will always be a slave to external sources of "entertainment.
How can we ever be satisfied with ourselves?
The research is unmistakable, and so much of our parenting efforts end up psychologically and physiologically damaging our children. Helicopter parenting does not allow our children to discover or take the necessary childish risks. Couple this with the fact that we are too concerned about hygiene these days, we can easily affect the mind and physical immunity of that individual.
The horrific amount of anti-bacterial gel I have witnessed laced on children's hands over the last two years simply shows how scared we are. If only people knew how sensitive the balance of certain microbiota around the body was. On and in the body.
Heads Up Guy's
Solutions and support exist. When you visit headsupguys.org, you will find many resources that include a stress test, a self-check, finding a therapist and practical tips.
Have a blessed day, and I welcome all feedback.
Simon Brazier. Dip HN, NNCP