Many people have noticed that teenage boys and men hate to go to therapy. Therefore, let’s address this issue. Here is a link for a movie, “The Mask You Live In” https://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo. The above trailer contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you will have a very good idea why.
In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, and can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that.” You don’t have to because it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the school staff picks him up and tells him to shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. If a boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You have even seen examples of this attitude on ABCs show “Dancing with The Stars”. A couple of times some of the men have started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.
Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Another popular activity with boys as a way to demonstrate their manhood is for boys to get into a fight and have a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. They also check their posts and compare who’s post has the most number of view. All of this to prove they are a “man.”
Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does cry he is called a “sissy, or a fag” just to list a few.
If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy they pretend to be. Also they know physicians and therapists treat other men and they are afraid how they might be compared to other males. They are afraid that the physician or therapist doesn’t see them as tall or as strong as other guys and the physician or therapist may think that they are not as tough as other guys. Now physicians and therapists are not making these judgments but the guys being treated still feel like a failure.
Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men and teenagers who cry in my office all the time. They all get really embarrassed and beg me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry have ever cried in my office. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the male stereotype.
We need teenage boys to focus on their emotions. The best way for us to help boys and men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype. Challenge Day is an excellent organization which tries to help teenage males face their feelings. Also monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This stereotype has a tendency to lead men and teenagers to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks, strokes and suicide. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.
If we take a moment and examine teenage boys more closely, the CDC statistics indicate that one in five boys would benefit from therapy. Additionally, anxiety and depression are at epidemic rates for teenagers especially boys. Furthermore, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenage boys and the preferred method for suicide are guns. Finally, the research indicates that teenage boys who try to conform to the stereotype are more likely to report feeling lonely and isolated. Given the situation with the pandemic, this is not a good time for teen boys to feel lonely or isolated. Therapy could be a tremendous help to teenage boys.
While teenage boys resist therapy for the above stated reasons, you need to remember you are the parent. If you notice your teenage boy is depressed and talking about suicide, therapy is not a choice. Additionally, if they appear depressed and you suspect they are abusing alcohol or drugs, therapy is not a choice. Yes you want to give choices about their lives, but remember they still are kids and cognitively not able to reason as an adult. Therefore, at times you must say there is no choice. Would you give them a choice of having surgery, if they had appendicitis?
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience who specializes in treating children, teenagers and victims of trauma. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.