There’s a twisted notion that men are supposed to withstand pain as a matter of fact without letting anyone know what they’re dealing with. Clearly there’s a defect with the tired, haggard yarn of our attitudes and values which are fed into the ‘weaving machine’ that creates the social fabric. It churns out an antiquated pattern; a thread bare dust-covered relic from the early 20th century and beyond. Society, it seems, would have us believe that men, for no other reason than gender, should just be quiet, shut up, and not discuss their problems. Our culture creates the impression that for a man to seek help is a sign of weakness. The statistics mentioned above merit a rethink of our erroneous beliefs on how resources are allocated in order to reduce the social costs of male depression. Men who believe that asking for help is a weakness, needlessly endure more relationship problems, higher rates of debilitating, and terminal illness. At what cost to society? At what pain to the individual?
Research has highlighted that it’s practically impossible to understand the causes of mental illness, (depression being a major part of it), without looking at self and identity issues. The main viewpoint is founded on an understanding that our mental health is shaped by affirmative self-conceptions, high self-esteem, and or the possession of positive social identities. It’s recognized that psychological disorders have been attributed to threats to self-identity, and identity loss. Low self-esteem, feelings of uselessness, and/or uncertain self-image are central criterion in the identification of major depression, bi-polar disorder, chronic depressed mood, and borderline avoidant personality disorders.
When a man identifies himself as father and finds himself divorced or separated with little or no access to his children, he loses a major sense of self. It is fairly well understood by divorced fathers that there is a bigoted, apartheid mentality in the Canadian Family Legal System. It does not take much deductive reasoning to conclude that such bigotry easily contributes to depression and mental health issues in Canada, when effective denial of child access is institutionalized in law. When a person identifies as a father, and the court system effectively rips away his children, and obstacles are deliberately put in the way of access, ‘possession of positive social identification’ is suddenly gone. Add to the mix the likelihood of added financial hardship, loneliness, and powerlessness it creates a caustic cocktail that eats away at – who he was supposed to be Of all men, the divorced are at the highest risk to take their own lives. However, people in the English-speaking world are beginning to voice concern. A March 27, 2013 article by Sam de Brito in the Australian paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, noted that, “Many of the fathers interviewed felt that everything about the divorce, especially anything concerning the way the children were raised, was completely out of their control …they were on the outside looking in.” In addition, “Many were extremely embittered that society demanded that they still assume the responsibilities of parenthood. As they saw it, society, the legal system, and their ex-wives had conspired to rip their connection to their children … Overwhelmingly it was these dis-empowered, embittered, despairing fathers who were the ones who discontinued contact with and support of their children. In each case, something profound happened to them to make these formerly responsible fathers disengage. Their paternal urges were thwarted. They were somehow made to feel, either by the legal system or perhaps their ex-wives, that they had no real role to play in their children’s lives.” It was noted that, “A better, more accurate label for them might be ‘Driven Away Dads’.”
An article in the Canadian newspaper, the Financial Post, by Barbra Kay noted that “[…] fathers, often find the deck stacked against them in court.” And, “that fathers often continue to be unjustly marginalized in family court.” A British charity organization called Samaritan recently found that aside from mental health problems among middle-aged men, the loss of their pride and identity, along with the other pressures is enough to tip them over the edge, which puts them in a dangerous position where suicide appears to be the only way out.
Yet, to assert that poverty and unemployment are contributing factors to depression and suicide does not bear witness to the fact the bottom 10 countries where suicide is lowest, are also among the poorest countries on earth. That reality supports and underlines the idea of a frayed ideology of what it means to be a man, at least in English speaking nations.