Need for quick action to help our Bajan men

When is our society going to wake up, seriously acknowledge and take decisive action to address the worsening crisis facing men in general, but young men in particular? It is obvious, from the evidence available, that men, for some unclear reason, are having a hard time coping with various challenges in their lives.

Many are falling through the cracks. This week, Minister of Health John Boyce revealed that three times more men than women were being admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital for mental illness. Between 2010 and 2014, the number was 876, compared with 277 women. First time admissions in 2014 were 169 men, compared with 68 women.

Minister of Health John Boyce
Minister of Health John Boyce

From a public policy perspective, a comprehensive set of targeted interventions is clearly needed to help men to cope more effectively with their challenges and, by so doing, rescue many from a current destructive path. Government must take the lead in this regard. It is the all-encompassing institution which has ultimate responsibility for the well-being of everyone.

For several years now, regional social scientists and international organizations have been drawing attention to the worrying plight of men in Barbados and other Caribbean countries. Their specific warning was that men or, to be more specific, black men, were plunging headlong into crisis. The warning obviously was not taken seriously enough. In terms of a specific policy response, little was done.

Across the region, men are steadily retreating from the mainstream of social and economic life where traditionally they have had a strong presence and their leadership was felt. Today, a lot of our young men seem be quite contented existing on the fringes of society in a subculture defined by the block, gangs, drugs and crime.

For many young men, liming on the block from sunrise to sunset seems preferable to getting a good education or finding gainful employment. Selling or taking drugs, engaging in gunfights, and getting involved in lawlessness seem to be a normal way of life. The instant stardom which young men earn from committing crime is seen celebrated in our courtyards when offenders show up for trial.

These issues speak to a complex and deep-seated problem that requires extensive investigation to come up with appropriate solutions. In the 1970s when the Government of the day was seeking to improve life for women and bring more into the mainstream of society, it established the historic National Commission On The Status of Women.

The commission held hearings across the island and eventually submitted recommendations for improving life for women. These recommendations have contributed to significant progress for women over the past quarter of a century.

The problems facing men are of such seriousness that a similar response seems appropriate. Ignoring the problems of men will be to society’s ultimate detriment. Solutions must be found.

The socialization of men is probably at the root of their challenges. Men were brought up believing that to be a man means to be strong. Being strong, from a man’s perspective, is not associated with openly expressing feelings, such as crying in public or seeking help for problems. To many men, such behaviour is seen as a reflection of weakness because it is more associated with women.

As a result, men internalize their issues, grin and bear whatever pain they are experiencing and go about their business with a façade suggesting everything is okay. When men carrying such pressures eventually crack, it is sometimes with deadly consequences not only for themselves but, unfortunately sometimes, for their partners and others.

Just as women have been effective at organizing to lobby for what they want, men too must learn to do the same. MESA –– the Men’s Educational Support Association –– already exists, but there is room for at least one or two more effective organizations to be in the vanguard articulating men’s issues and seeking solutions through lobbying the powers that be.

The focus is usually on women and children; but men too are unfortunate victims of abuse. A lot of it is verbal and emotional –– being repeatedly called “dogs that want killing”, for example.

Despite having imperfections, which women also have, most Barbadian men are generally good persons. However, it is the behaviour of a steadily growing minority that is cause for concern and is tarnishing the image of the majority. These are the ones deserving of our compassion and support to help them turn their lives around for the better.

3 Responses to Need for quick action to help our Bajan men

  1. Charles Worrell September 21, 2015 at 1:37 am

    As the above article seeks to highlight the plight of men in the Caribbean generally, as a bajan, I will address the issue from the stand point of Barbados. It has long been my contention that we in Barbados had so much in so many areas, we got lost along the way and in many cases were deceived as we doubted what we really had and accomplished. Because we lost sight of who we were, we became vulnerable to the propaganda of other lands and many of our ‘watchmen’ became available for bribe and the hope of riches and so, that necessary oversight was lost and Barbados looked to others for direction. This direction as given, has placed our country in a place where it faces issues previously unnecessary. NO-ONE in our country seriously stood in the way of women. Indeed, we sat next to them in our classrooms of schools, college and the university. Our women participated in politics at a level unknown to many in the so-called developed world. Many world leaders commented on our progress largely because it outstripped our resources. We busted the charts on literacy ahead of the Americas etc. We had one of the most effective family planning programs in the area and almost the world. We prospered because we worked together as a family at the micro and macro cosmic level. Our Tourist industry attracted people who heard of these beautiful people who had broad smiles and extended a welcome to the other person irrespective of color or creed. We build our homes as needed and educated our children with a voracity that enabled them to attain a better footing in our society. We enjoyed successive governments interests in our well being during pregnancy and after and in the provision of medical care for all; free education and reasonable
    housing were seen as the birthright of all bajans and we became the envy not only of some of our sister states in the Caribbean but the wider world.

    Barbados became a place under attack as many sought to dislodge our accomplishments. Our systems were denigrated until rejected and we looked to the North for examples rather than to our “mother’ who did one of the best jobs within the colonialistic setting. Our system of education was attacked brutally and men bored the brunt of that attacked. As it progress, the then principal of the Teachers Training College drew attention to the falling numbers of men attending College and we ignored her. This very refrain was presented by the people at UWI as men continued not to be among those furthering their education. Even churches, too, blasted men in literally every sermon and as this continued, men gradually fell off the path. Needless to say, the female of the specie went ahead and now sits in every place of authority in the country, a so-called or previously christian society.
    Our school system was another target as we tied the teachers hands while empowering the student and it was only a matter of time before the schools in Barbados were over run, having metal detectors just like those of the USA. The days also when scholarships could be attain with two or three A levels and the General Paper but this has now been taken over by five or six courses coinciding with stress levels previously unheard of, largely because school was fun and learning was enjoyable. What we never paid attention to, is the fact, that none of what we were importing worked in the exporting country and our leaders were not willing to let our experience get in the way of our vulnerability to propaganda.
    And so, as these trends continued, men retreated and we are now at a place today where we are seeing the ghastly results. We continue to draw from these same countries who were learning from us and now, like a ship without a rudder and without significant natural resources, we are caught up in this worly-gig (remember kite flying?) not knowing where to go next. The movement did not lift women towards men, it denigrated men as it lifted women and so, we have a lifeless male population that is unable to perform his role in society. The bad part is that we are still not listening nor paying attention and so, our fate is so guaranteed, it is almost catastrophic.
    Barbados will probably never recover from those fateful years between 1993 and 2008.Those years not only took with them, our plantations; our bank, our land etc. etc but they took away our manhood. If ever a country needs to go back and look at how it got where it is, that country is Barbados and once we remove those whose heads are buried in the sand, perhaps, just perhaps, we may be able to take back our men and rear them for leadership once again.

  2. Chris Wright September 24, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I am a Bajan now retired and residing in Florida.
    Reading this item about the plight of black men in Barbados, I would like to share my experience regarding this problem. I lived in New Jersey for thirty-five years and saw the same trend and plight of young black men in many cities which were predominantly black. Newark, Camden, Paterson, East Orange, all of them. One can go as far as cities in California which are predominantly black and see the same.
    What makes one think that it would not have reached Barbados, I am no sociologist, however common sense will dictate that there has been a breakdown in the family structure which is a result of plight of young black men. We know that there are many single mothers who have raised their sons to be decent and productive members of our society, however there are far too many who have never seen or know who there father is. One of my priest who as a chaplain of a law enforcement department, had encountered and counselled many young men under arrest and found many did not know their father or even had a male mentor they could follow.
    Many of these young men end up in jail and come out learning what? nothing more than the trend of not wearing a belt and exposing the top of their underwear sometimes down to ‘the crack of dawn’.
    “It takes a village to raise a child” and it also takes a man to teach young boys how to be men, as I’ve said prior, some single women have done a great job, however one can bet that they learned quite a lot from their father.
    I am glad to have been nurtured by the men in the community and time I was brought up in. There was grandfather, father, uncles, men in the community, and teachers who cared. They were all part of the community and at any time I was seen out of line, whoever was near let me knew I was out of line to the point that if they had to remove a belt from their trousers and give me a few lashes, I couldn’t let my folks know else it would have been more.
    I am sickened when see the lack of respect for elders, each other, and law enforcement. I am sickened when seeing the disregard of life and limb as it takes very little tolerance for one to pull the trigger on another senselessly.
    This is going on all over the world and inasmuch as the concerns addressed in the item is regarding young men in Barbados, it’s time for everyone to take a global look at the problem, as if it were AIDS or EBOLA else the blacks on this earth will sooner or later be extinct, and at whose hands will that be?

  3. Donna September 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    We won’t ever be extinct. The cell block guys have already fathered a brood of juniors by the time they are caught or killed. What we must fear is the hell of our existence surrounded by this type of individual. We need to act yesterday.


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