For more than fifty years, I have had one goal: Healing men and the families who love them. I founded MenAlive in 1972 following the birth of our son Jemal and our daughter Angela. Like all parents I wanted my children to grow up in a world where fathers were fully healed and involved with their children throughout their lives. In 2019 I invited a small group of colleagues to join me in creating a Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity.
When I began my work there were very few programs that specialized in gender-specific health care and we the information we had about how to help men was limited. That has changed. There are literally thousands of programs that specialize in helping men and their families and we know a great deal about how to address many of the major problems facing humanity.
In a recent article, “The Man Kind Challenge: Why Healing Men Will Do More Good Than Curing Cancer,” I said that male violence was one of the most significant problems facing humanity and preventing male violence was one of the most important things we could do to improve our world and make it safer for our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
There is an African proverb that says,
“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
We don’t have to wait for the next mass shooting to be reported in the news to know that there are a lot of wounded, angry, and violent males who don’t feel hope, love, and support from their society.
A number of years ago, The World Health Organization issued a report, “World Report on Violence and Health” that took a comprehensive look at violence world-wide. In the Foreword to the report Nelson Mandela says,
“Many who live with violence day in and day out assume that it is an intrinsic part of the human condition. But this is not so. Violence can be prevented. Violent cultures can be turned around. In my own country and around the world, we have shining examples of how violence has been countered.”
The report breaks down violence into three main categories:
- Self-directed violence.
- Interpersonal violence.
- Collective violence.
Self-directed violence primary involves death by suicide. Interpersonal violence occurs most often in families, but also includes violence in communities. Collective violence involves conflicts between groups and includes genocide, terrorism, and war. Women certainly can be driven to violence, but violence is primarily a problem for men. Males do most of the killing and males are the majority of those killed.
Male Violence and Mass Shootings in America
Although mass shootings constitute a small part of the violence in the world, understanding them is important because they can help us better understand violence of all types. Perhaps more than any man, Mark Follman can help us understand male violence. He is a longtime journalist and the national affairs editor for Mother Jones magazine and author of the influential book, Trigger Points: Inside The Mission to Stop Mass Shootings in America.
I recently interviewed Follman and gained new insights about what how we can prevent male violence. You can watch the full interview here.
Follman just wrote a new article, “The Truth About Stopping Mass Shootings, From Sandy Hook to Uvalde” which offers new insights that can help us create a more peaceful world in the coming years. He says,
“Progress begins with rejecting the longstanding narrative that mass shootings are inevitable and will never cease, a theme reliably delivered after each horrific tragedy with the political cri de coeur that ‘nothing ever changes.’ The assertion that mass shootings are an inherent feature of our reality is in its own right fueling the problem, in part by validating this form of violence in the eyes of its perpetrators, who seek justification and notoriety for their actions.”
He goes on to say,
“Now, a decade after Sandy Hook, a spate of gun massacres in 2022—including another nightmare at an elementary school—has only further clarified how America can and should think more broadly about confronting this distressing problem.”
Preventing Male Violence Begins With New Hope and Real Facts
“A decade after Sandy Hook, a spate of gun massacres in 2022—including another nightmare at an elementary school—has only further clarified how America can and should think more broadly about confronting this distressing problem,”
If we think mass shootings are an inevitable part of life and nothing can be done to prevent them, we will mourn our dead, look for someone to blame, and go back to business as usual. If we refuse to see violence as a male problem, we will fail to address issues of male hopelessness, depression, and rage.
Mark Follman offers the following facts and some specific solutions.
- There have been five devastating gun massacres since May 2022.
- All five attacks—in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; Highland Park, Illinois; Colorado Springs; and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville—were carried out by deeply troubled and aggrieved young offenders, ages 18 to 22.
- All showed various combinations of the following warning signs ahead of time:
Aggression and other behavioral and mental health troubles.
Observable deterioration in life circumstances.
Various forms of communicated threats.
Focus on graphic violence, misogyny, and ideological extremism.
Planning and preparation for the attacks.
Follman offers following solutions:
- Shift away from the heavy overemphasis on active shooter response—lockdown drills and the various “target hardening” measures of physical security—to a greater emphasis on active shooter prevention.
- Invest in mental health care and community-based violence prevention, including behavioral threat assessment programs, which can have a broader benefit of helping foster a climate of safety and well-being, from corporate and college campuses to K-12 classrooms.
- Raise the age requirement for gun buyers from 18 to 21.
- Expand the use of extreme risk protection orders, a policy known as red flag laws, for temporarily disarming individuals deemed through a civil court process to pose a danger to themselves or others.
Man Therapy: An Innovative Community Mental Health Program
Man Therapy is a unique and innovative program that addresses these issues. I first heard about the work of Man Therapy when I met its founder and creator, Joe Conrad in November, 2021.
“We realized early on that if we waited until men were in crisis, we would be too late,”
says Grit Digital Health Founder and CEO, Joe Conrad.
“I have always felt that creativity, innovation, and communication could solve any challenge. From the beginning, our team set three goals for Man Therapy:
1) Break through the stigma surrounding mental health by making it approachable.
2) Encourage help-seeking behavior.
3) Reduce suicidal ideation.
“Through research, men told us to just give them the information they needed to fix themselves, so we built a website that provides a broad range of information, resources, and tools to do just that. It is extremely rewarding to know that we are accomplishing our goal of positively impacting and changing men’s lives.”
Those of us who work in the field of men’s mental health, know there is a strong relationship between violence turned outward that leads to problems like mass shootings and the violence turned inward that leads to suicide.
Man Therapy has been doing great work for some time.
“Man Therapy was launched in 2010,”
says Joe Conrad,
“and has had more than 1.5 million visits to the site. Visitors have completed 400,000 ‘head inspections’ and there have been 40,000 clicks to the crisis line.”
A recent A CDC-funded study shows that men who access Man Therapy, as a digital mental health intervention, experience a decrease in depression and suicidal ideation, a reduction in poor mental health days, and an increase in help-seeking behavior. Additionally, this study shows that men in the Man Therapy control group reported statistically significant improved rates of engaging in formal help-seeking behaviors through tools like online treatment locator systems, making or attending a mental health treatment appointment, or attending a professionally led support group.
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