Regarding Martin Raffel’s thoughtful column on loneliness (“And God said it’s not good for a person to be alone,” Dec. 27), I would like to add an important constituency to the conversation: men. Yes, the “loneliness epidemic” knows no bounds — that said, there is a strong connection between men, loneliness, and suicide.
As W. Bradford Wilcox wrote in The Atlantic (May 2013) — “The new suicide statistics for middle-aged American men, which show a marked rise in suicide for middle-aged men (and women), belie the myth of ‘The Lone Ranger.’ Men don’t thrive as rugged individualists making their mark on the frontier. In fact, men seem to be much more likely to end up killing themselves if they don’t have traditional support systems.”
That said, there are opportunities to break this cycle. One example I remember deeply is of a group of men gathered on the Tel Aviv beach at sunrise, over a kumkum (electric kettle), wooden crates, folding chairs, and coolers as I jogged along the Tel Aviv/Yafo boardwalk several years ago. I felt connected to them, even though I wasn’t sitting with them, and wishing I could join them over their morning shmooze.
For those of us in the U.S., there are organized groups of men who gather to explore the best of healthy masculinity. Men show up because of a desire to connect with other men, to ask questions that require thoughtful exploration in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment. They come from truly diverse backgrounds and experiences, showing up for a wide-range of reasons, possibly with an unconscious thinking of “How do I make my life happier, healthier?”
I joined one group more than two decades ago in just such a space of feeling alone as a relatively new spouse and a new father. And I have also been fortunate to participate in such a setting for Jewish men. These groups provide opportunities for men to break the loneliness of their lives, opportunities to share, learn, laugh, and play.
This type of gathering is important for men of all ages, denominations, and levels of spiritual and non-spiritual observance. What is most important is for men to gather in healthy ways.
President, Men Mentoring Men
Former board member, Menschwork