It is apparent to everyone, though many have trouble accepting the reality, that humanity is in grave danger and we face threats to our very survival. A report by The Commission for the Human Future says,
“Human activity and numbers are transforming our world. Wildfires, floods, droughts, melting ice caps, large-scale extinctions of plants and animals, shortages of water, loss of soil, forests and sea life combined with rising food insecurity, universal pollution, pandemic diseases, collapsing states, wars and refugee crises are a wake-up call that our very way of life is at risk.”
The authors of the report, headed by cardiologist and physician Arnagretta Hunter, go on to note,
“While the above may seem like isolated threats, they are parts of a larger puzzle of which the pieces are all interconnected.”
Having worked for more than fifty years in the field of gender medicine, I believe that healing men is a key component for healing humanity.
In my recent article, “The Man Kind Challenge: Why Healing Men Will Do More Good Than Curing Cancer,” I said,
“Existential threats can result in existential despair and men and women often respond differently.”
The comedian Elaine Boosler captures an important reality about the different ways men and women respond to feelings of pain and fear when she observed,
“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
Although the statement is meant to parody the different ways women and men respond, it does speak to a real difference in how some men and women deal with feelings of depression, despair, and other health issues.
In fact, for 9 of the 10 leading causes of death, male rates are higher than female rates according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC (2019):
I believe that all the inter-related threats that Dr. Hunter and her colleagues describe in their report would be minimized if we made a commitment to improve men’s health and healing mankind will also improve the lives of women, children, and all humanity, as well as the planet we all share.
In 2004 Drs. Daniel J. Kruger and Randolph M. Nesse, conducted a study that measured the overall male to female mortality ratio in twenty different countries and found that in each one studied, males lived sicker and died sooner than females. They offered four clear conclusions, which for me was a call to action.
- Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death.
- Over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the U.S. alone if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.
- If male mortality rates could be reduced to those of female rates, this would eliminate over one-third of all male deaths below age 50 and improve the lives of males at every age.
- Achieving this goal would do more good than curing cancer.
Disconnection and Loneliness Are Key Contributors to Our Problems
Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., the 19th Surgeon General of the United States says that loneliness is the root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today—from alcohol and drug addiction to violence, depression, and anxiety, and males are particularly vulnerable.
In his book, Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men’s Success, social scientist Dr. Thomas Joiner notes that men make a lot of money and have all the accompanying privileges and power and this has been true for millennia.
“A vibrant and vigorous group men should be, one would assume,”
“But you would be wrong. For each of the leading causes of death, mortality is higher for men than for women.”
What is the underlying problem at the root of men’s poor health asks Dr. Joiner?
“Men’s main problem is not self-loathing, stupidity, greed, or any of the legions of other things they’re accused of,” says Dr. Joiner. The problem, instead is loneliness; as they age, they gradually lose contact with friends and family, and, here’s the important part, they don’t replenish them.”
Joiner goes on to say that women do not suffer these losses as much, because they maintain more social connections throughout their lives.
“As they age,” says Joiner, “men tend to drift off and wither, and as they do, they avoid healthy fixes. Men, far more so than women, had trouble trusting and reaching out for help from others, including health care professionals.”
The disconnection men feel from their own emotions, from other people, and from sources of help and support can be deadly. To illustrate, Joiner cites a postmortem report on a man who died by suicide.
“He did not have friends…He did not feel comfortable with other men…he did not trust doctors and would not seek help even though he was aware he needed it.”
This was certainly true of my own father who become increasingly depressed at mid-life when he couldn’t find work to support his family. He took an overdose of sleeping pills to try and end the depression, shame, and feelings of failure as a father. Fortunately, he didn’t die, but millions of men are not so lucky and continue to die from Deaths of Despair.
Our Moonshot Mission to Heal Mankind and Humanity
I met Mo Gawdat following the tragic death of his son, Ali. Inspired by Ali’s life, he wrote the book, Solve For Happy. As the former Chief Business Officer for Google X (Google’s moonshot factory whose goal is a 10X impact on the world’s most intractable problems, not just 10% improvement), Mo felt the most important thing we could do for humanity was to reverse deaths of despair and reconnect people to themselves and each other.
“I will make global happiness my personal mission, my moonshot for Ali,” says Mo.
With his vast business and personal experience he created the platform, OneBillionHappy.org. My work healing men fit well with his mission and I wrote an article for the happiness library, “How to Cure Depression and a Half-a-Billion Men.” On November 19, 2021, International Men’s Day, I made a commitment to my own Moonshot Mission to improve men’s health and happiness. I reached out to colleagues I’ve worked with over the last fifty years since I first began doing men’s work and we are creating ways we can work together to heal men and heal our relationships.
It will take many different individuals and organizations working together to achieve our goal. I detailed what I have learned over the years and my recommendations for healing my recent book, 12 Rules for Good Men. The book was inspired by my wife, Carlin’s, challenge to write a book that helped men break out of the restrictive armoring that restricted who they would be and to help women truly understand what was good about men.
In the book, I detailed twelve healing practices that have been particularly helpful for preventing disease that lead to premature death including the following:
- Join a men’s group.
- Break free from the “man box.”
- Recognize and address our anger and fear toward fear.
- Undergo meaningful rites of passage from youth to adulthood and from adulthood to elderhood.
- Understand and heal our adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
- Heal the family father wound.
- Treat the irritable male syndrome and male-type depression.
We all need to learn what is truly good about men and how we can heal the wounds we have all suffered in our lives. There are many wonderful things about masculinity and being a man. But we are also taught limiting beliefs about what men and women are supposed to be. Old systems of domination harm men and women in different ways.
In their book, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Futures, system scientist Riane Eisler and anthropologist Douglas P. Fry describe the way the dominator system demands that men conform to limiting beliefs and practices that keep us cutoff from ourselves and others. Liberation for men and women must be achieved together by acknowledging and supporting the best of what it means to be male and female.
“Boys and girls really are different, and so are the men and women they become,”
says Melvin Konner, M.D., Professor of Anthropology, and author of Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy.
“It is not, for me, a cliché or a pleasantry to say that I think we are very fortunate as a species to be able to acknowledge that.”
Suggesting that there are differences between males and females seems like common sense to many and heresy to many others. Throughout history differences have been used to oppress one sex, usually women, so it’s not surprising that many are suspicious of those who talk about male/female differences. I believe we can acknowledge the real and wonderful differences between men and women as well as the ways we are alike and work together to change the systems that oppress us all.
This is my calling in life and my Moonshot Mission to Heal Mankind and Humanity. If you would like to join us, please drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Moonshot Mission to Heal Mankind” in the subject line. I also invite you to receive my newsletter where you can read regular articles like these and receive support for your own healing journey.
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