Good essay on men, emotions, and suicide

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by TerryJ2, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I cut and pasted the article because if I had given you the link, you'd be stuck with-the horrid comments. Sick, mean, petty.

    Editor's note:
    Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker and author or editor of 11 books, including "Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays." E-mail him at, or follow him on twitter @kevin_powell

    (CNN) -- My cousin Aaron abruptly typed me the news while we were texting back and forth about other matters: a Kansas City Chiefs football player killed his girlfriend, then went to the team's practice facility and committed suicide in front of his head coach and general manager. Left behind was the couple's 3-month-old daughter, who was in another room when her mother was shot multiple times. Like so many Americans, we were stunned.
    We would learn later that player was Jovan Belcher, 25-year-old starting linebacker for the Chiefs, a man and an athlete spoken of in the highest regard by everyone from his high school teammates and coaches to his fellow professional football players. They, too, were stunned.
    Indeed, what would lead a man who, by all accounts, loved family, friends and football and had overcome great odds to make the National Football League as an undrafted pick out of the University of Maine to take such shocking actions? A man raised by a single mother, he had achieved so much in such a short period that he had widely been considered a great role model for what could be done through hard work, grit and determination.

    Kevin Powell

    Since the killing and suicide are so fresh, so recent, we do not really know what might have driven Belcher to such extreme and horrific actions.
    But the knee-jerk reactions have been rampant on the social networks. "Coward" is a term being used to describe Belcher. But that is too easy, far too simplistic, and name-calling never solves a problem.
    Belcher was a man living in the supersized macho world of football, a world in which many of us American males reside, be it football or not. Too many of us have been taught manhood in a way that is not healthy. Be tough, men do not cry, man up -- these are the things I've heard my entire life, and I now cringe when I hear this relayed to boys or younger men by teachers, coaches, fathers, mentors and leaders.

    Or we use derogatory and sexist or homophobic words to describe men or boys who do not meet the "normal" of what a male is supposed to be. Some of these male authority figures mean well, or are simply repeating what they were socialized to be or to do, and do not realize that they are unwittingly teaching that manhood has little room to express hurt, disappointment and sorrow.
    Yes, they had been arguing, Belcher and his girlfriend, but in my work as an activist, including around gender violence prevention, I've seen the tragic pattern across our nation of men who, in the heat of rage, have killed their girlfriends, wives or lovers, as if they had no other vocabulary or emotion to deal with the disagreement or the break-up.
    We cannot forget Kasandra Perkins in this story. Because when men behave in this manner, it also says, bluntly, that the life of a woman is of no value whatsoever. Just the fact that much of the media has focused on Belcher and barely mentions Perkins by name speaks to this truth.

    In the late 1990s, after achieving some level of success from my years on MTV's "The Real World" and as a feature writer for Quincy Jones' Vibe magazine, I descended into a dark period that included excessive drinking, painful bouts with anxiety, stress and depression, and, yes, I thought often of committing suicide.
    I had been fired from Vibe. I had a terrible time coping with life back then, and I kept much of it to myself because we live in a world where men are not encouraged to express the hurts we feel.

    That is the problem for so many of us. We do not talk about much of anything, except sports, women and sex. Everything else is routinely ignored. Or repressed. Until we explode.
    What eventually helped me get through those dark years, years that too were riddled with violence -- toward myself, toward others -- in various forms, was a renewed commitment to my spiritual foundation, a return to therapy in a very serious and consistent way, and surrounding myself with people, including men, who were willing and able to give me the safe space to talk about anything and everything.
    For the past several years, I have privately advised and counseled several professional and amateur athletes, and entertainers, all men, all grappling with very warped definitions of manhood. The recurring theme over and over is fear of expressing themselves fully, fear of letting others down, fear of not being the tough and rugged men they were told they had to be. And on the inside so many of them are damaged as a result. The very definition of manhood they've embraced is more an emotional prison than anything else.
    This is probably why the one scene that is locked in for me is of Belcher thanking his coach and general manager for what they did for him. Then walking away and shooting himself in the head.
    We must struggle, harder than ever, as men, as boys, as a nation, to reach the point where a heart-to-heart conversation is the first and only option, not a gun, not gun violence. The lives of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins will have been in vain completely if we do not go deeper within ourselves to teach and show our sons, our husbands, our boyfriends, our fathers, our men and boys, that there is another way.
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  2. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Thanks Terry.

    That one hits home here :sigh:
  3. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Heard this was the 6th football player suicide this year (don't know who the others were - I don't follow the game). I wonder if it has something to do with head injury, or something to do with playing football?
  4. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Good article.
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Yes, football seems to be a metaphor for male angst, and suicide the ultimate expression. So terribly painful.
    Head injuries could be a part of it ... maybe something to do with impulsivity?
    So sad. So devastating.
  6. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I feel like elaborating my earlier comment to this.

    This is really a topic I'm finding difficult in parenting right now. We live in the part of the world that in many studies is considered the least masculine, least macho. Even our sports tend to be less macho than yours but still this is a problem. And I'm raising two boys in sports world, in team sport. And other of my boys is rather vulnerable and sensitive.

    Around here this is not so much a issue with adult sports but very much so in certain junior levels. Especially the age groups my both sons are, those U16, U18 and U20 teams. How bad it is depends from club's culture (one of difficult child's former teams was horrible in this regard, they really had this tough guy ethos) and also much about the leading boys in the team and their attitudes and life situations. Even having a girlfriend (instead of trying to find one night stands) can be considered sissy, and being nice to your girlfriend can certainly be sissy. So is showing any emotion except a haughty teenage contempt. And if the leading boys happen to be smart it can be much, much better too. Differences in two different teams in same club can be huge. My easy child is just now seeing this. He is teetering between two junior groups in same club. He is mostly with U18 group and at times with U20 and the atmosphere in this is different between the teams. Luckily the older boys team is one that is less macho so easy child is more likely trying to adapt that attitude. And in same club their second team in same age group is so totally macho it is sickening (luckily easy child is not with them at all, but is only friends with few boys there.) Differences in mentality are big and it is not something adults could do a lot about. And when kids want to fit in they adapt to those values and it certainly leaves a mark.

    Things luckily change a lot when they come to men's level. Of course, when most are actually men they do have much less need to come off as men. They are that anyway. And when in sports experience and age make a big difference in one's position in pecking order, it means that older, more experienced players are the ones who set a atmosphere and values of the team. So macho things tend to go drastically down. For example my difficult child gets teased trying to come off as macho by his team-mates. difficult child learned that during his junior years and haven't really understood yet that it is not cutting it with adult men. But he is learning, I hope.

    Around here gay athletes and their experiences have been a lot in media lately. Especially junior years are very hard for male gay team sport athletes. If they make it to adult level, it gets a lot better. There are for example few players in difficult child's league who being gay is a 'public secret' and no one cares. But still no one is openly gay, mostly maybe because in our culture it is considered to be rather personal, even celebrities don't usually speak about matter before it comes evident when they marry someone of same sex and partly because being gay could be a huge issue for an athlete in some other countries they may end up playing. I feel lucky that it seems that we dodged that bullet with our sons (I did wonder with difficult child in certain point, but now it seems that he is likely straight) because it would had caused so much additional angst. And there is enough of that already.

    But a lot of that macho bull feces in kids teams is rather bigoted and homophobic and that really stinks. And it really can go so far that even any positive emotions towards a girlfriend are considered sissy and gay. Makes it really hard to raise these boys to be smarter and accepting their emotions and dealing with them. Luckily it is only those few years, but it is few years too many.
  7. papabear

    papabear New Member

    I can't think of any suicide situations where a woman has killed her boyfriend/husband than killed herself but I imagine there are some. I do know of situations where the woman will kill her children then commit this different than when a man kills the woman he loves? (honest question) The times when I had thought of suicide I never thought about harming my wife or children.
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I wonder if male competetive sports are like the military? You are expected to be totally macho, and stuff if when you have a problem.
    Although you say you are in a part of the world where men aren't too macho, I think there are countries where it is worse that the U.S. Of course, they don't keep or offer accurate statistics on male suicide so we'll never know.
  9. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Military and competitive team sports have a lot in common also in this. And yeah, United States certainly isn't the most macho-driven place in world. I just happen to live in one of those places that tend to be very low key in that. (Even our military is not very macho to be honest, in fact they consider being a macho to be dangerous and leading to stupid risks.)

    And I do hope things are getting better. For example suicides, mental health issues and many other things are nowadays much more talked and accepted than earlier both sides a bond.

    I have to say I'm very relieved that there seems to be much less of any macho koi in adult level in my kids sports. As I said difficult child once was in the horrible team when it comes to these issues and that was pain. I absolutely hate it when my sons utter some macho koi. And especially difficult child has always been vulnerable to trying to imitate that. Luckily now if he tries to be too macho his team-mates are more likely to just mock him because of that. I do hope he slowly does learn that it is not appreciated in his current surroundings and simply drops it.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012