Why I’m Passionate About MenAlive

I do believe that our passion for our calling often comes from the wounds we experience in our lives.  I still remember vividly hearing that my father was hospitalized following a suicide attempt.  I was 5 years old.  He was 42.  At the time I had little idea of what had actually happened, but I knew my father wasn’t home and I was sad and scared.  Somewhere deep inside I wondered what happened to him, did it happen to other fathers, and would it someday happen to me?

These questions weren’t far from my mind when I went off to medical school in 1965 following a heated argument with my father ending with him screaming, “You’ll never be a good doctor if you won’t even take care of your own father.”  I went into, and dropped out of, U.C. San Francisco Medical school within a two week span and found the path to my calling when I enrolled at U.C. Berkeley’s school of Social Welfare.

The Ultimate Family Man

When my son, Jemal, was born on November 21, 1969, I made a vow to him that I would be a different kind of father than my father had been able to be for me and I would commit my life to helping make a world that was safer for fathers, their wives, and children.  I now have five grown children and twelve grandchildren and I continue my commitment for their sakes and for all the other children and grandchildren in the world.

It was at Berkeley that I first learned that the suicide rate for men was 4 times higher than it was for women and later when I was getting my PhD in International Health that the suicide discrepancy was even higher as men got older.  For men in their 60s the rate is 5 times higher than it is for women of the same age.  For men in their 70s it is 8 times higher and for men in their 80s it is 14 times higher.

When I wrote my first book, Inside Out:  Becoming My Own Man in 1980, I touched on my father’s depression and suicide attempt.  But the memories were still too painful and confused for me to write about it in depth.   It wasn’t until my 10th book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools that I could write about what happened to him, how it impacted me, and what I now know we can do to keep men alive.

Most of us know men who have killed themselves and we know even more men who didn’t die physically, but have died emotionally and spiritually.  I have struggled with depression in my own life and have faced those bleak nights when I didn’t want to wake up, thought my family would be better off without me, and I just wanted the pain to go away.  Too many men suffer in silence, or with irritability, anger, and rage.  Too many women and children suffer because of the absence of their men.

My colleague Randy Nesse at the University of Michigan says, “if we could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer.”

Quite simply, this is why I have written the books I’ve written and created this website.  I have a vision of keeping 1,000,000 men alive who would otherwise die in body, mind, or spirit.  I know I can’t do it alone, but I know there are a lot of people in the world who share my passion and want to help men, and the women and children who love them, to live long and well.

I’ll be writing regular blog posts and look forward to engaging with you.  It means taking some risks to be vulnerable and to open our hearts and minds to each other.  I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy writing this first blog.  A little voice whispers, “no one will want to hear about these things…it’s too depressing…people are too busy with their own lives to respond.”  But there is another voice that says, “We can save the lives of a million men and their families, if we share our experiences, expertise, hopes, and passions.  What could be better than that?”  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Comments

  1. I realize this is a very touchy subject and especially for males. During my life I have had to deal with male suicide in my family and husbands family. It was not easy then and it sure as blazes doesn’t get any easier now.

    I work with a community group called Victim Services, we deal with all types of emergencies, no holes barred. In the last 6 months I have had to find the courage and words to help families and friends through heart wrenching suicides … males that ranged in age from 17 to 52, you are quite right when you are saying more men commit and succeed I may add! than do women.

    I wonder Jed if this is due to the fact that women are more open with our emotions no matter how deep they are? Does any one have their own personal insight in this?

    • Debbie, As you note the suicide rate for men is much higher than it is for women. It averages about 4 times higher, but is higher for males between 15 and 25 and older men. I think that’s a key to why the difference. Younger males (trying to impress younger females) take more risks. Older men, post retirement often have fewer social supports. Since many are no longer “bread winners,” they often have lower self esteem.

      Any other ideas about why men die sooner and live sicker?

  2. I and my two sons have lived what you wrote in your book “Mr. Mean”. After 2 years of seeing the “Mr. Mean played out, my sons and I have given up on our husband/father. He stays drunk, lost his very successfule job of 20 years, hangs out with a younger group. I had to file personal bankruptcy, surrendered our home, and now filing for divorce after 30 years. It is unbelievable what has happended to this family! I pray you reach as many people as possible before they go through what our family has been through before it is too late!

    • Patti, It is stories like yours that make me do this work. Too many men, take a wrong turn and begin going down hill. Too many women and children suffer. And too many families are destroyed. Sharing our stories and working together we can change things. Thank you for your courage tell your story. Keep the stories coming.

  3. Tammy S. says:

    Your website and the info. it contains came into my life during a very sensitive and painful period. I was newly wed to a man I was struggling to understand…yet had no ability to understand all of the chaos and turmoil of our lives. I had never heard of male depression or any of the myriad ways it can manifest itself…I thought he was just a terribly angry and hurtful person who delighted in causing me pain. Your site, books and blogs gave me a level of comfort during that time which made the resulting aftermath a bit easier to accept – because at that point I had more information (thanks to you) with which to process what was happening. My husband experienced and displayed severe depression symptoms and over the top emotional outbursts which unfortunately were not alleviated with anything I was able to suggest or do and ultimately culminated in an incident of physical abuse which severed our marriage completely. We separated and he filed for divorce two weeks ago.
    The sad ending of our marriage didn’t come in total vain however…with the knowledge I gleaned from following your work and exploring the issue of depression, I am now reaching out in my community with a place I am calling ” Wellness Oasis”…a neutral educational place where struggling individuals and couples can access the resources necessary to stay together and become whole again through the struggle of depression and ill health.
    So, it was through your example, teachings and information this new horizon was born! Thank you Jed for empowering all of us with your own personal triumph story….it’s truly life saving!

  4. I have recectly retired and have found that the anger, depression, emotional upheval, and ill-feelings only get worse without the structure and routine of a job. I am finding that taking one day at a time and writing out a plan is helping to add purpose for a life in control. I always thought that everything would be better when I didn’t have the pressure and time comittment of a full-time job, I am finding out that it’s not working out that way. I would say, check on yourself earlier than later, so you can be and remain as whole, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

    • Oliver, your experiences are like so many. We look forward to retirement, but don’t realize how much of our identity is wrapped up in our work. Thanks for sharing what you have learned that makes this transition more positive. I’d be interested in hearing from others about what they did to prepare for and move into and through the time when we retire.

  5. Hi I am very glad to have stumbled upon this forum.A large part oft life has been dominated by depression obsession drug abuse and it got to a point where living has become very painful.I am currently reading The irritable male syndrome and it feels like at last there is some hope for me. There is so much to be happy for in my life yet I am unhappy angry and depressed beyond.I sometimes whish that I will not wake up again and that all the pain will be gone and that my family can just live happily without me screwing up their lives.I will be looking out for support on this blog and hope to find relief. Adriaan.

    • Adriaan, The first, and most important, step in moving through depression is having the courage to say, “I feel like I’m going down, and I need some help.” So many of us live in isolation and men, particularly are taught to “be tough” and stay cool. It was only after I broke the silence (with my wife’s help) that I was able to reach out to others. Please know that your life is important and even when you wonder whether those around you would be better off without you, it isn’t so. Hope you continue to share your journey with us here.

  6. 65 still alive and well, continuing on the path, mindfulness, tai chi, meditation, jogging, fitness studio, affirmations, healthy food, mens/womens issues and plight, married 18 years, 2 sons, 16 and 22…sometimes continuing my fathers path of authoritarian methods, or, mr. nice guy, with therapeutic lifetime learning in mind, body and spirit, Phd from Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, living abroad for 17 years…doing the work, mild depression at times amidst the wonderful life, living next to Vienna Woods…4 cds of original songs and a novel…newly retired and looking out at rain and spring blossoms…as mother earth continues to breathe and give love…we ask forgiveness and are thankful

    • Don, wow, what a concise statement of what one man has done to bring enrichment to his life and others around him, after 65. Hope you continue to share what has worked for you. I’m sure others can identify and will find similar things that they can do.

  7. Sharon Rose says:

    Hello:
    I can relate to all the posts. I have been married for 29+ years to a man who was diagnosed with bi-polar and sleep apnea later in life. He is on 2 anti-depressants and a mood stabilizer. He has chronic pain and never seems to feel any better despite all the medications: Oxycontin and Hydrocodone, for pain. He can’t seem to be able to tell if they are helping or having any effect. He is angry and mean all the time. He is always getting into arguments with our adult son who is staying with us while he completes he last semester of teaching before moving to Denver. This could be a special time as it will be the last time together as a family. My husband seems to have to be controlling things or having it his way. We sleep in separate rooms and have no intimacy but the worst part is he seems to be in complete denial of his behavior and the effect is has on us. My son had a nightmare the other night after the argument with his father. He is always right and he says that I am bitchy. If I mention that the sleep apnea is a big part of the problem he get very angry.
    We sold our house and plan to move out West. I now have the most difficult decision to make rather to leave him and move with our son to Denver or go with my husband to Arizona or New Mexico. After months of agonizing and much work I told my husband I was going to go with him and he seemed very excited for a few days but then a week later his behavior was the same old again. I have been doing 90% of the work in preparation of moving i.e., calls, packing for the move. If he does something, it takes him five times longer than it would any one else. He is mentally slow and doesn’t get up until 9:30 or 11am, so half the day is gone. He is always complaining about politics or how bad the world is. He has been seeing a counselor for years but I don’t see any lasting improvements. He is not getting treatment for sleep apnea. He goes to his room frequently. He can’t seem to get the necessary things completed or he fixates on unnecessary things that are not the priority. I say all of this as I myself have depression and chronic pain as I have arthritis and metal rods in my back after 3 back surgeries so the lack of help is extremely difficult for me especially.
    Help I would appreciate any feed back or suggestions. Thanks, Sharon

    • My first guess is there’s a serious nutritional problem. You might explore bulletproofexec.com for strategies. You might try a high-quality greens supplement like Athletic Greens, twice per day per person, lots of coconut oil (increase slow enough to avoid gastric issues), magnesium glycinate, vitamin D (discounts on tests at vitamin D. org), and maybe 8-10 grams of fish oil a day. Quality supplements are key even though more expensive. I wish you the best.

    • Sharon, thanks for your willingness to share the truth of your situation and the pain you are all experiencing. I talk with a lot of women who are trying to deal with the man’s pain. Often they are both locked into destructive patterns and it feels like you either get out of the relationship to save your own life or stay with the man and risk that his self-destructive behavior pulls you both under.

      I suggest you reach out and find a good counselor. I’ve worked with a lot of women to help them help themselves first, then to see how they can help support their man. Let me know if I can help.

  8. Read your book irritable male syndrome and cant wait to read the next one. Real eye opener! Thanks!!!

    • David, glad you liked my earlier book. The new one brings together 40 years of experience. I think its going to help a lot of people. We’ll keep you posted.

  9. Manuel Ruiz says:

    When I first took the quiz back in 2005, it REALLY changed my life for the BETTER. I knew something was wrong but could NOT figure it out. Went to counseling and see my doctor and NOTHING. After taking the quiz, EVERYTHING made sense. Reading your books also enlightened my thinking and I have been improving myself ever since.
    YOUR books literally saved my LIFE.
    Thank YOU

  10. Thank you for your work. A close friend’s father was bipolar and is now deceased because of self-destructive acts. You are helping people create more compassionate narratives for what they have seen in others as well as helping all of us to better understand ourselves.

    • Rick, bipolar or manic depressive illness is more common than many people know. My father had it and I have as well. Its similar in some ways to Attention Deficit Disorder and other related illnesses. I’ll write more about it in future posts.

  11. Karen, NZ says:

    I’ve recently read your books that the library here holds, and I wish I had known about the effects of hormones, and stress, as well as the insights you share about men even 4 years ago. It would have helped immensely in understanding significant men in my life. I’m enthused about your new book, because I’ve used Energy Psychology techniques (Tapas Acupressure Technique specifically, alongside flower essences and Touch for Health) for many years to address deeply-held longstanding issues, and to assist myself in dealing with stress. Stress that I had to take a look at, because my system couldn’t contain it any more – it was a case of ‘having to’ rather than being able to continue as I was. I suspect many people, men in particular, reach a ‘tipping point’ where issues have to be dealt with, no longer having the option of ignoring, or getting busier to cope. I look forward to reading your perspective and experience, as I know that these techniques have really helped me.

  12. Thank you all for posting such passionate and personal responses. I’m at Google today with John Jeavons who is giving a Google talk on helping to feed the world. I’ll write about it when I return. I’ll also comment on your feedback. For now, know that I appreciate your joining our community. I love interacting with you all.

  13. Hey Jed – The blog is a terrific tool for men to use who are facing issues in their personal lives and for the women who love them. I am a huge fan of your work and am immensely grateful for your continued efforts within the recovery community. Thank you for all your innovation and hard work in bringing this very important issue into the public arena. Looking forward to your newest addition!
    Best – Lisa

  14. Karen, glad to hear from people all over the world. My wife, Carlin, and I spent 2 months in New Zealand a number of years ago and loved it. Certainly stress and energy healing are applicable to everyone, everywhere. Thanks for helping let people know about these helpful resources.

  15. Jed, I have written to you before (several years ago) and you very kindly replied to my email. Life is about the same, although Welbutrin has damped down my husband’s fits of rage to the occasional outburst. He was finally treated for extremely low ferritin by an internist (after 5 years of family docs ignoring it), and the addition of vitamin B12 shots to his iron and vitamin C have gotten the level up, and begun to improve his memory. After a year of treatment his ferrtitin level is within a normal range, but this doesn’t seem to have effected his depression. All his problems are caused by my bad attitude and constant criticism; that is what he believes. The only time we have a personal conversation is when I am feeling more fed up than usual. He is nice as pie to anyone else, but touchy as a lion with a sore paw, with me. I hate going anywhere with him, with friends, because that seems to make him even touchier (except at church, where he’s a saint). Having our children around on holidays is a struggle because he’s sweet to them, ignores me, and I have to not only avoid HIS hot buttons, but tiptoe around one of the children who has his own problem with depression. Books and services like yours at least help explain what is going on, and hold out some hope. I feel I’m living three generations of angry, depressed men (when I include my late father-in-law). If my own father had not been depressed when I was growing up, I would have run fast, and not married someone to caretake his moods.

    • Helen,

      Too often when a man is out of balance with his “life,” but doesn’t understand what is going on, he tends to think the problem is with his “wife.” I’ve found over the years that working with the wife can do wonders to keep her in balance and find ways to take care of herself, deal with his moods in a way that is supportive, but does not give in to the negativity, and eventually to get him involved in getting the help he needs. Good luck with your process.

  16. Sometimes the hardest thing in life is just doing the right thing, not because someone deserves it, but because it’s the “right thing to do”. I read somewhere that “what we do in life, echoes in eternity”. I feel like most days, I’m walking on egg shells trying to understand what is going on. It’s very hard to understand how a man can be so irritable, angry and filled with rage and not be able to discuss why he’s feeling the way he does. And, when it’s directed at me, through no doing of my own, I have a hard time responding in a way that won’t escalate into an argument, or even the severing of our relationship. Debbie said that she thought that maybe it’s because women are better equipped to discuss their emotions, I suppose that’s true. But the day to day living with a man who “shuts down” when opening up would be more productive is so frustrating that it makes it very difficult to make decisions from the standpoint of logic instead of reactive emotions. I used to look forward to retirement, which is quickly approaching, but now I’m concerned that his mood swings, anger and rage spells will get worse, as Oliver has shared. On my good days, I think that I’ll just live my life and ignore his bad behavior and then I swing to the polar opposite and try to fix whatever I perceive may be wrong – not knowing exactly what may or may not be wrong, because he won’t talk about anything. I just keep trying to be supportive and understand… it wasn’t always this way. But now as he reaches the age of 60 it seems to be getting worse. I just keep telling myself, “what we do in life, echoes in eternity” and I try to make decisions that will help and not enable his bad behavior.

    • I know its so difficult when men ( or women) shut down. We need their kindness, love, and support. When it isn’t there, we suffer and they suffer. Men don’t shut down because they are mean, they shut down because they are in pain.

  17. I have lived with an “angry brick” for almost four years now. The first 15 years of our marriage felt like a partnership, and then he disappeared into the basement to blast his music, started writing letters to teenagers and later porn stars he met online, and completely disengaged himself from life in general. I begged him to get help when I became pregnant with our second child (a miracle, since he’d only looked at other women for so long). He did so reluctantly, then decided the medication (and the family, I guess) weren’t worth it and he stopped Lexapro cold turkey. That’s when things really fell apart. He became angry at the baby when she’d cry. He’d become sullen when asked to pitch in and help with something. And then he lost his job. Now I’m struggling with postpartum depression myself and trying to do right by my two daughters, which means working full time so we have insurance, but I fear I’ve already lost the man I fell in love with.

    If only I’d been able to sell his family on this concept years ago. I did try, but they decided I caused his depression and miserable life with a mortgage and two children and so they’re no help either.

    • Kristy, I know how painful it is to see the man you love slipping away into irritability, blame, and depression. This is why I find it so important to share our experiences so others can learn how to address these problems before its too late. I very much admire your courage to pick up the pieces, get your own life back on track, and be there for your children. I hope, too, that your husband and his family will learn that the problem is not his “wife,” but his “life,” and get the help he needs.

  18. Excellent post Jed, that I’m sure will resonate with many men who are suffering in silence.

    This is such a complex issue that can include a loss of identity when retiring, social isolation and the soul sucking feeling that our best days are behind us.

    Another major factor that many men are unaware of, is the steady hormonal decline in their later years that often precedes depression, waning physical prowess and sexual vitality – all major blows to the male ego.

    I have witnessed men who’s bad attitude, personality and physical well-being have made a 180 degree shift after making simple changes to their nutrition and exercise routines, as well as being prescribed bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.

    More men need to learn to let go of their shame when asking for help, in whatever form they require.

    • J.W., Well said. Sharing our experiences and being open to ourselves and others, helps reverse some of the isolation that men feel as we get older. Men, more than women, have a tendency to be “lone wolves” and go it alone. This can be good at some times of our lives, but we need to also honor our need to be connected to others. The positive side of aging with its decrease in testosterone levels allows us to feel less competitive and more cooperative. If we allow ourselves to reach out, we can find a new lease on life that is more peaceful, productive, and passionate than anything we’ve ever felt. As the song Desperado by the Eagles reminds us, “You better let somebody love you…before its too late.”

  19. George Atwood says:

    I was isolated and I fell into a hole. I didn’t see the hole, or maybe I mistook it for comfort. It felt familiar and comfortable, but I knew I didn’t belong there. No man had taught me or shown me how to recognize and avoid the hole. It took a long, long, time to get out, and a part of me didn’t come all the way out but I didn’t know it then.

    I became isolated and fell into the hole again. That time I saw the hole. I knew it was there, but it didn’t matter, I fell into it anyway. I didn’t know how to avoid it. It wasn’t comfortable any more. It took a long time to get out.

    I saw the hole but I willfully walked straight into it. It felt awful, but actually feeling was a good thing. I knew where I was and how to get out because I wasn’t isolated any more. That time I got out quickly. I could not have done it alone.

    I chose to walk on a different path, a path that avoided the hole.

    • George, it takes us a long time realize that we are falling into holes of our own choosing. Recognizing our error can go a long way towards making us whole and happy.

  20. Rob Mason says:

    Jed – as a man I thank you for the work you are doing having come to realize the importance through my own “research” which has been the sum total of my life. Having now been “clean & sober” for 27 years (after 15 years of my early life being “lost” to addiction). Subsequent to that I was married for 17 years then divorced – gave up a 28 year career as a practical nurse and have delved deeply into various avenues of spirituality/healing within which I seems that I have examined “myself” leaving virtually no stone unturned (including the hole in my soul left from having been adopted as a baby) and most recently focusing on “men’s issues” through “ManKind Project.” I have had scores of insights, revelations and personal epiphanies (come to know and realize new gifts and talents) and feel I have earned a “non-academic” Phd. Still here I sit at nearly 55 years old – no savings, some equity in a condo (just learned a new position I had secured is not to be – the company leaving town) and though I feel deeply the journey I have walked – could be of great value to others (currently in or ready to step out from the darkness) I don’t know where or how to create this as a viable vocation (having no formal credential) and I don’t know that acquiring degrees at this stage of my life would be financially prudent (not that sound financial decisions have ever governed my life). So while I have come a significant distance through “the woods” I’m still journeying and certainly the awareness that sites like this exist and their is someone like yourself offering continued threads of hope and inspiration will continue to be useful to light the path (which appears to still be an uphill trajectory).
    I deeply and passionately wish to “get over myself” and find a way to use my life to demonstrate to others that “all is not lost” (as a matter of authenticity and integrity I recognize that I must complete my own transformation in order to “walk my talk.”)
    Thank you for providing a forum through which matters (i.e. things that actually matter) beyond the typical male discourse of sports, business and politics (none of which I’m particularly conversant in).

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