Dear President Trump,
We have posters all over the VA that say “It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help….” Some have a silhouette of a single solider with his head in his hands and others have a male hand reaching down from a military vehicle to help another male up. They all have information on how to reach the veterans’ suicide hotline and encouragement to seek mental health care if one is struggling. There are also posters depicting men and women in uniforms with messages about getting help if you experienced military sexual trauma (MST). The VA has been determined to do right by people who experienced MST and also to make mental health services readily available to Post-9/11 veterans so as not to repeat the terrible neglect that happened with Viet Nam veterans. There have been a few hard feelings on the part of some older veterans that the younger folks have gotten so much attention, but overall the veteran community has seemed very positive about the increased emphasis on mental health issues and the strong messages that help is available. The VA has been at this for about 15 years and we are seeing some good indications that the outreach has really made a difference in terms of younger veterans seeking mental health care sooner.
We are also starting to see other hyper-masculine groups stepping up and speaking out on mental health with the NBA leading the pack. Several of their stars have begun talking about their struggles with depression and anxiety and are encouraging people to go talk with someone, to get help. They are challenging the BS that boys and men who admit they are emotionally suffering are weak and can’t be real men (whatever that means). I’m happy about this for them, for the people in their lives, and for the kids who look up to them. And I’m happy for the world because they are essentially saying that girls’ and women’s tendencies to be emotionally vulnerable and willing to get support are not signs of weakness, but rather, are signs of strength. It sends a powerful message that the days of one-trick, angry men like you are numbered.
May we all feel safe to be emotionally tender.
May we all be happy to reimagine a culture that welcomes emotional honesty.
May we all commit to healthy emotional expression not hemmed in by gendered norms.
May we see that men and women experiencing full emotional spectrums will move us towards peace.