June is Men’s Health Month. Our campaign theme is Let’s Hear It for the Warriors. This week’s theme is Reclaiming a Healthy Warrior Mentality, and it ties into this week’s blog and the webinar topic. The following question and answer were part of an interview between Susan Gay and Jeremy Fields addressing the mental health and wellbeing of American Indian men. To listen to the entire interview, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3zqnKG4XwI&feature=youtu.be
[Susan Gay]: Many males are raised to believe that being a man means not showing emotion, that doing so is a sign of weakness. What would you say to Native American men to change that mindset?
[Jeremy Fields]: I would say that one thing that I’ve learned throughout my years of work in Native communities and coming face to face with cultural solutions, has been that the opposite is true of that statement. We have some of the most powerful male leaders within our communities that are the embodiment of the opposite; meaning, that they’re full of compassion and they love fearlessly. So, being able to express emotion is actually going to exemplify a great strength. I think one of the things that we’ve come to understand is that not feeling is actually avoidance or escapism. It’s kind of taking the easy way out. It takes a lot of strength and a lot of stability to be able to sit with your emotions and allow yourself space to feel them and to be able to process through them and to be able to overcome; that even in itself is a space of healing. So, it’s important to be able to feel emotions, and it’s one of the most empowering things that you can do, not only for yourself but for your family and your community. And I think it’s important that we normalize that conversation just between us as males, that we encourage that within one another, because that in itself is an example of this warrior spirit that as indigenous males we cling so closely to.
And I actually recently had a conversation with a young man two days ago about this very question, more or less, helping him to understand what a healthy Indigenous man looks like in terms of cultural identity and those types of things. And that was one of the things that we focused on, because he was transitioning in and out of the juvenile justice system. He was trying to understand, “Where do I stand? And I’m confused because, my father is this way. But at the same time, when I become an embodiment of what he is, then I find myself getting in trouble.” So, I was able to help him, understand that you have to pay attention to the emotions that you’re feeling. It takes a lot of strength and stability to be able to sit and feel those things, and that’s the embodiment of that warrior spirit. It’s not about being reckless or it’s not about being unfeeling or uncaring. It’s about being one of those individuals who’s willing to care at all costs and to be able to hold yourself to that accountability, that no matter what, I’m going to be the one that has an ability to feel what even maybe other people aren’t able to. So, in that way, I can protect them; in that way, I can help them, I can support my family.
Jeremy Fields is the founder and director of Thrive.Unltd, a leadership company owned and operated by Native Americans. It is committed to providing innovative, culturally relevant training for Native American communities, that focuses on proactive solutions for mental, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. For more information about Thrive Unltd. or to get in contact with Jeremy visit https://thriveunltd.com/
Susan Gay is the project leader for the grant Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys in the U.S. This grant is funded by the Movember Foundation in collaboration with the Prevention Institute.