Hey y’all – for those of you who haven’t met me yet, my name is Matt (he/him/his)! I work at Safe Harbor as a primary prevention coordinator on our REP team and primarily work in Greenville County. In my two years working at Safe Harbor, I can say that every week at Safe Harbor I learn something new – whether it be a new experience, a new emotion to process, a story to hear, or a project to design – I’m privileged to be on this journey with such wonderful staff!
In light of International Men’s Day, I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own!
As a primary prevention coordinator, I spend time in conversation with teens about intimate partner violence, healthy relationships, and the role that Safe Harbor plays in assisting and empowering survivors. In one of our lessons – depending on if I have a boys-only class or not – I’ll run an activity that our team took from a documentary called The Mask You Live In. The activity has the students anonymously answer two questions:
What is the mask you wear – what do the people you interact with see of you? What are you known for? What’s your role at school?
What is behind the mask – what are you using the mask to cover up? What don’t you let people see about you?
Short plug: the movie is available on amazon prime. Highly recommend watching. Anything I’m about to say in no way does justice to the insight of that film.
Without question, the large majority of the young men will have written down a word associated with emotion and/or trauma below the mask: ‘sadness, depression, thoughts of suicide, violence in the home, anger,’ etc.
What do they use to hide those emotions and experiences? Often times, it’s something like: ‘I’m the class joker’, ‘tough’, ‘athletic’, ‘player’, and the list goes on.
For whoever is reading this: I encourage you to dig into the severity of this problem, but also recognize the hope that is in these moments. Here’s the hope that I’m learning to see: Men can be willing to open up about the pain and trauma in their life – but you have to know them well enough to offer them in a space where that willingness can grow. Here’s the problem: We are not offering that space enough, and it is often non-existent. This is an international issue – we all have a part to play.
Celebrate strength. Lift up vulnerability. Give each man the space to be themselves with accountability and support from those around them.
“All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate. If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down. Show me by lifting somebody else up.” – Barack Obama
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