We teach boys to repress emotion. Of course they're in crisis
Published 21/01/2013 | 05:00
• I agree totally with the article 'Raising girls is hard, but it's boys who really need our help now' in last Saturday's Irish Independent.
There is indeed a crisis among young males, in relation to their emotional wellbeing. At the extreme end of this we have the situation that boys are at four times greater risk of dying of suicide as girls. Why is this?
From a young age, boys are taught not to cry. Such shows of emotion as fear, timidity or sadness are frowned upon. Boys learn, both consciously and unconsciously, to suppress their emotions. For girls, such expressions of emotion are encouraged and girls consequently feel more comfortable with their emotions and with expressing them.
The teenage years are difficult at the best of times. Children move away from the security of their parents and begin the tentative steps of forming their own independent personalities. Their interests, their values and their sexuality can all be in the mix. Coupled with this, in their late teens they do the most difficult exam they've ever done, while trying to figure out what career they will follow.
No wonder some teenagers and especially boys fall through the cracks. Many feel unable to articulate their difficulties or reach out for help. The recent cutbacks in relation to guidance counsellors in secondary schools is certainly not a move in the right direction.
In my opinion, education can play a huge part. I believe resources should be put into organisations like Positive Mental Health here in Galway, with which I volunteer. We deliver mental-health modules to transition-year students on all aspects of mental health, from bullying to relationships to peer pressure – aspects of a young person's life that are just as important as getting good grades in the Leaving Cert. Positive strategies to help people who are experiencing difficulties are an integral part of the modules we deliver.
Everyone takes the emotional wellbeing of young people for granted, but the recent suicides of young people show us we do this at our peril.