Motivational speaker and author Allan Kehler has real concerns about the state of men’s mental health, and his latest book, MENtal Health: It’s Time to Talk, addresses those concerns with an aim to help.
Men are far less likely to ask for help than women – they spend entire lives hiding their feelings because of deeply rooted societal ideas of what a man should look like and how he must act.
“Human programming surrounding the idea of masculinity influences boys,” Kehler says. “Boys were training to be men, and men were supposed to be physically strong, ruthlessly competitive, confident, and stoic at all times. Boys weren’t often taught how to recognize and talk about their feelings; they were taught to be a man and suppress their emotions.”
This programming is slowly changing. “Today, boys are being taught to feel, to cry, and to reach out for help in times of need,” Kehler writes. “Boys are beginning to understand that asking for help is not a weakness, but rather a strength. They are learning that it’s okay to not be okay.
“What’s not okay is to fight your battles in silence,” he urges. “There is nothing manly about suffering in silence. While the pressure to be strong still exists for boys, silence has never equalled strength.”
Kehler, whose own struggles with mental illness began at the age of 14, says he knows firsthand what it’s like to live a life where you’re smiling on the outside, but suffering on the inside.
“I also know what it feels like to be vulnerable, put a voice to my pain, and be free from it,” Kehler says.
Over the years, Kehler has met a great number of men who have been carrying pain around for far too long – pain resulting from mental illness, addiction, tragedy, sexual abuse, and trauma.
“Why does it have to get so bad before we, as men, ask for help? Why do some of the headlines read ‘Women Seek Help; Men Die’?” Kehler asks.
“It was my hope that through a book like this, I could answer these questions.”
This book will save lives.
It includes the personal stories of 16 men – professors, counsellors, farmers, fathers, motivational speakers, teachers – who have suffered in silence, who have feared repercussions from asking for help, feared ruining their reputation, or challenging the idea that men must be strong at all times.
But then they opened up, they asked for help, they shared their pain. Suddenly there was hope, there was help, and there was understanding.
This book will show men a more useful idea of what strong can be.
“The men in this book are motivated to help boys and men recognize that they don’t need to conform to the old stereotypes of masculinity,” Kehler says. “They are motivated to represent a new and healthy form of masculinity, and demonstrate that real men can, and should, ask for help.
“These men understand that the conversation around men’s mental health won’t get better unless we make it better.”