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Boys in danger - the mental suffering of boys

Boy | ©:

The report by the Foundation for Men's Health and the Health Insurance German from 2013 delivers a disturbing picture. The part about children and young people here in Germany is particular concerning. It is called "Carefree or Underserved". It leads to believe that, especially the male youth suffers a higher number of mental illnesses. What are the reasons for it and who needs to take responsibility?

Biased Social Structures

The number of mentally ill people is in the male population significantly greater than in girls. That boys are more affected has several reasons. Most researchers agree it is foremost society’s responsibility, together with the education system and values which are not ideal for young boys.

It appears that those values and even the education system are tailored more for female needs. Our conventions, rules and standards are rooted in our history. That does not immediately mean that they are wrong. However, it is advisable to always question the views and conventions of society. If asked straight forward: Do we have a feminist society?

enthusiastic kart race for boys
enthusiastic kart race for boys | ©:

Dominance, aggression and other "evil" characteristics

Boys consistently move outside the socially accepted boundaries. We do not want aggressiveness or dominance; what we want is our children to obey. Unfortunately, this wrong thinking. Neuroscientists as well as psychologists long disagree with those social norms.

It is not all that long ago that it was most normal for a young man to live out his dominance and his aggressiveness. Those two attributes are fundamentally not necessarily bad. For example, dominance has a lot to do with self-confidence, assertiveness and leadership skills.

The boys want to develop their potential, discover the world, explore it and go their own way. For example, if a boy stacks chairs on top of each other, that’s not really wrongdoing, but a static experiment for them. Instead, the boys are constantly out of line due to their genetic makeup and often are accused of not being able to adapt. To adjust to the so-called norm, boys have to reject their basic needs, which over time can become extremely distressing.

Cool boy
Cool boy
©: Andrey Kiselev - Fotolia

This pressure leads then to more deviant behaviour, which leads to more rejection and before he knows it, a vicious circle took hold. If they still want to survive in our society, boys have to bend, adapt and try their best not to be themselves. Our social contracts prohibit boys to live out their own best instincts and at then the society (parents, teachers, …) say, something is wrong with the boy.

A school with only one meaning

A big problem is our school system. It is mainly aimed at female students . Probably not consciously, but the system works primarily to support girls . This reveals itself in the number of high school graduates which are significantly more females . Boys more often than girls, leave school early or attend special schools. Current teaching mostly uses our auditory sense. Listening so to speak. Boys, however grasp their world rather visually . Therefore, if the subject is presented mostly orally, boys tend to easily shut off. Their brain is not able to process that many works that quickly. Boys brains are designed differently.

The male population is the clear loser in our school system . Due to their much higher testosterone content in their blood they are livelier. Boys just have greater urge to move around, to be active. They just don’t know what to do with all their strength after they were forced to sit in a chair for an entire day. This is added by the fact that boys are much more likely to express their feelings externally then girls, who are much more introverted . Therefore, males are perceived rather aggressive and unapologetic by their teachers. Consequently, boys feel unfairly treated and that too with good reason.

By suppressing our children’s innate instincts, we drive them into madness, tear them apart internally. It is time to move away from the old way of teaching, towards a new and open schooling system. This system needs to be adjusted to the findings of brain research and the knowledge we have acquired over the 30 -50 years. That is how much we are behind approximately. According to researchers, the optimal school lesson has to contain the following: moving four times, laughing loudly three times and at least once there must be chaos. These are the activities, which stimulate our brain helping us to absorb, process and understand knowledge.

In reality, it is true, that girls, like boys, would equally benefit from a newer, more modern school system. An example of better schools is the concept of “learning offices”. In this system, there are no classrooms any longer, only common- or meeting rooms. Everyone can choose for themselves what to learn, when, where and with whom. The sophomore might help eighth graders and if things once in a while really don’t work out the way they should, there is still the teacher to give a helping hand. There is likewise no school work anymore. If a student thinks he is ready, he knows his stuff; he obtains a test and receives a certificate after passing. Taking 10 days off to go on a sailing trip with your father is no longer a problem, because you are not missing out on anything. When you come back, you pick up where you have left off.

Boys and their dreams
Boys and their dreams
©: Aliaksei Lasevich - Fotolia

What has education to do with it

However, the most sensitive aspect here is the home environment. By today’s standards, if a boy is restless, he is often diagnosed with ADHD and gets some medication. Those are the boys, society could not bend. What once was fidgeting today is a disease. The boy might get the feeling that he somehow doesn’t function properly, even though is behaving accordingly to his gender. Behaviours such as hyperactivity, aggression and dominance are merely undesirable in our society. However, they belong to a man’s development just as the branches to a tree.

Masculinity is one of the strongest stress factors for men. Particular in the sexual area. While most young girls talk about their first menstruation with their mothers; the first ejaculation is a taboo, a “shameful event” and hardly any boy would dare talking to his father about this. Likewise, it is much more difficult for a gay guy to come out. The reason is the taboo of emotions in men. The growing man needs role models and needs to be taught that it is ok to express his feelings without losing his masculinity.

Because boys usually do not show their emotions as openly as girls do , their needs and fears are greatly overlooked. Therefore, it is important for parents to listen carefully and to look closely. A useful role model, therefore, is the best way to teach boys. For example, it is not necessary for the father to always be the hero. He must be able to show weakness, be open and admit to his feelings. Children learn what they see from their parents and for boys the learning comes in particular from his father. You can give a child all the right advice you want, if you are not able to walk your talk, your advice will be almost fruitless.

The gender differences have to be noted in all areas whether the school, education or medicine. One of the biggest problems here is the lack of lobbying because so far there is little lobbying for boys and men. Women and girls, ever since the 70s, had an increasingly strong representation. However , there is a glimmer of hope for the boys on the horizon. Later on in life, in their careers, adaptability is not highly sought after but creativity and inventiveness is. However, until young men get there, they might have to suffer a great deal of emotional pain, which hardly anyone can accept as fair.

Youth work with boys

typical game for boys
typical game for boys | ©:

Good guys are certainly easy to work with. Yet, what are the consequences of “being good”? Moral cowards, lack of confidence, insecurity and fear. While boys often look very cool and are unlike girls appear much more carefree, it is the guys who have the greater inner fears, worries and problems. According to the report mentioned above boys commonly have more behavioural and psychological problems than girls.

Boys do not cry, boys need to be strong - those ideals are widespread and characterize a boy’s image. This causes boys stress because they constantly have to prove themselves (…. In the way society wants to see them), which causes a great deal of tension. If guys present themselves sensitive like girls, then it is seen as weakness. Consequently, guys try to hide those weaknesses, uncertainties and internal needs. They conceal or cover them up. Many a boy tries to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs or try to compensate for their mental problems with aggressiveness. No one recognizes the hidden pain...

Youth group for boys
Youth group for boys | ©:

In addition, boys are often discouraged to be themselves. Scuffles, play fights, and measuring their strength against each other are, among many youth workers and teachers alike, not encouraged. Even more so they have a very negative connotation. Those boys miss out on appreciation. If you never had the opportunity for a quarrel, being assertive will be hard later in life. Instead, the young men will be ostracized and reprimanded. Many boys take refuge in computer games, and are downright addictive to those games and basically zoom out. According to statistics, boys are ten times more addicted to the computer then girls. In my opinion, it is important that boys in the youth group have the opportunity to participate in appropriate combat and scuffle games, which physically challenge them. The idea is those who didn’t have the chance to be a boy so far, now he has. Instead of hiding behind computer games offer them exciting outdoor adventure games. Even hikes or games, spread over several days, if well planned and organised, are a healthy source of lasting good memories. Admitted, this can be a daunting task. Keeping young boys’ moving and on their toes requires a great deal of inventiveness.

It goes without saying, that a boys group also needs an atmosphere for open conversations. Conversations which address boys’ issues, their needs and fears. This requires a trusting base for the growing boy to open up. Another idea would be to enlist pastoral help or chaplaincy. It is not uncommon that the youth worker is the first sounding board the young person goes to before he turns to his parents.

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