The Black Dog
 Home Boy! The Soap Box | The Library | The Links | The Cave 

On men
- Take a sniff around
- You'll never walk alone
- Your healing zone
- The misanthropist
- How to help someone who is suicidal or depressed
- Angry? Some people find it useful to get their feelings off their chest by writing about how angry they are: feel free to write an email expressing your anger here. The email lands in a mailbox that no one at the black dog has access to.
- Insecure?
- Suicidal? Click here to email the samaritans

from On Men by Antony Clare

The dying phallus

As a young psychiatrist in the late 1960s and 1970s I regularly encountered the phenomenon then known as the 'empty nest' syndrome. It afflicted married women who, having given their lives to the rearing of their families, found when they reached their fifties that their children had grown up and gone and their spouses were off living a life of work and golf. Now, I don't see so many women from empty nests. Rather I see middle-aged men, who gave their lives loyally to this company or that corporation, who sacrificed everything for it, now ruthlessly put out to grass, compulsorily retired, downsized, rendered redundant. Bewildered, they look around but their children have flown and their spouses are otherwise occupied. It is the women who now play golf, who have jobs and friends at work. It is the men who cower in the empty nest, nervously facing what an eloquent Irish businessman friend has termed 'the forgotten future'.

From the outset of public life as a male - at school, university, medical school, debating union, postgraduate research centre, hospital - I learned to compete and pretend to a confidence I didn't often (didn't ever) feel. That is what men are required to do. As a result, one of the commonest fears of mature men is that they will be 'found out' in some mysterious fashon. As a young father, I shouted at my children in order to feel powerful, and covertly and sometimes overtly declared that manly boys didn't complain but had to be strong and responsible and suppress vulnerability, particularly if they were to avoid being bullied by other boys. As a young husband, I loved my wife and was, or so I believed, a sympathetic and liberated 'new' male. Now I am not so sure.

She sacrificed much to be a committed and full-time mother. I sacrificed little to be a peripheral and very part-time peripheral dad. But I was the family provider and that counted for a great deal - to me at any rate - and I was a father to my children, even if I would have been hard put to define what being a father was.

Now the whole issue of men - the point of them, their purpose, their value, their justification - is a matter for public debate. Serious commentators declare that men are redundant, that women do not need them and children would be better off without them. At the beginning of the twenty first century it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in serious trouble. Throughout the world, developed and developing, antisocial behaviour is essentially male. Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, alcohol misuse, gambling are all overwhelmingly male activities. The courts and prisons bulge with men. When it comes to aggression, delinquent behaviour, risk taking and social mayhem, men win gold.

And yet, for all their behaving badly, they do not seem any the happier. Throughout North America, Europe and Australia, male suicides outnumber female by a factor of between 3 and 4 to 1. The rise in the number of young men killing themselves in much of the developed world has been rightly termed an epidemic. For the old, the situation is no better. For every six elderly women in every 100,000 who kill themselves, 40 elderly men take their own lives. And these suicide figures are viewed as the tip of an iceberg of male depression, an iceberg hidden only because men are seen to be either too proud or too emotionally constipated to admit when their feelings are out of control. Men renowned for their ability and inclination to be stoned, drunk or sexually daring, appear terrified by the prospect of revealing that they can be - and often are - depressed, dependent, in need of help.