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#TeenSummit2018: Boys Can Cry, Too: Ending the Stigma of Men Having Emotions by Steven Kenyon

January 31, 2018

The topic of toxic masculinity in our generation is an overbearing emotional issue that is important this day in age. It affects not just men but everyone as well due to the same catalyst that sparks this issue of men being unable to freely express their emotions without the fear of this catalyst, that being toxic masculinity and hypermasculinity. The first step to help ending and wearing down this issue is educating our generation and the public.

What is toxic masculinity you might ask? Toxic masculinity refers to traits of dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotion. This rise of this kind of masculinity limits and puts various fears into the current age and youth of men not being able to express themselves freely in fear of being shunned and threatened by various sources of this toxic masculinity. An example of this can be shown with the hashtag of #MasculinitySoFragile was trending in September of 2015 to showcase these sources and attacks from hypermasculinity, especially online. In a rather emblematic tweet of the situation, Twitter user Mech of Justice (@mechofjusticewz) sneered, “I challenge any female tweeting unironically with #MasculinitySoFragile to last three rounds against me in a fight, We’ll see who’s fragile.” Which highlights the various online groups conducting these acts of hostility towards any sort of femininity or emotions shown through men. Online harassment is a large contributor towards this rise of toxic masculinity affecting those across the public and across social media. Another example of how toxic masculinity is how ingrained it is within societal norms and how it affects the youth of men and boys alike.

In 1998, William Pollack wrote a book titled “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys From the Myths of Boyhood”. He described the “boy code” as that it is required for boys to be stoic and independent, macho, athletic, powerful, dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine. If not, they would be failures. These kinds of things ingrained within the norms of society can often be the motive and driving point for these retaliations against any hint of femininity or emotions within men. In a recent documentary, “The Mask You Live In” films boys from various backgrounds that describe the way that they suffer from our culture’s narrow definition of what is acceptable masculinity and what is not.[1] This is another example and as well as a means of educating the public about the true mental health effects that toxic masculinity has on men and boys alike. This important issue can lead boys into depression, conduct disorders, isolation, violence and problematic relationships as a result of this current problem.[2] According to the CDC males die from suicide four times more than females and represent 77.9% of all suicides. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for males and 14th for females. Results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than males despite males having a higher suicide rate. Part of this might be for toxic masculinity to blame into pressuring males to not show or express emotions which lead into depression and suicide.[3] An associate professor of counseling psychology from Indiana University named Y. Joel Wong has also done extensive research into this topic picking apart certain masculine traits and how they contribute to the deterioration of mental health.[4]

Through means of education and discussing these issues of toxic masculinity and the problem with the fear of showing emotion among men we can crack down on ending the stigma behind men having emotions. Men are allowed to show vulnerability, and show weakness. Emotions are a human trait and not a female trait. As puts it best, “Men have tear ducts for a reason, men have emotions for a reason. We men were not made to feel heartless, we were not born without the ability to feel. We do feel things, some deeper than others, so why should we feel the need to hide these feelings from everyone around us?”[5]

What can we as a community do to help end the stigma of boys having emotions?

The first thing we can do is recognize and support organizations that help raise awareness of these issues like toxic masculinity. For instance, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism is a men organization of men and women that helps raise awareness and support positive changes for men. NOMAS advocates to have a perspective that is pro-feminist, gay affirmative and anti-racist.[6] The Healthy Masculinity Action Project is a national grassroots movement that looks to eradicate the harmful expectations and stereotypes with how our society teaches boys about what it means to be a man. The project aims to make a new generation of male leaders to be models of strength without violence and serve as positive change makers within society and taking their communities from awareness to action.[7] The next thing we can do is promote these types of organizations and take inspiration from them and apply them to our communities in order to help make it a better place. Another example being such as in Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois having a program called Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) which helps raise awareness with gender equality and to create a space where all genders can discuss issues that affect them.[8] We can take examples such as these apply them to our own communities as we are now with Teen Summit to help raise awareness with issues such as this one, with dope programs like these. Precautions like these can help support our folks, become even stronger allies with one another, and make our society and communities an even safer place without having to worry about expressing one’s self.


[2] Laura Kastner, PH.D. October 10,2017







#TeenSummit2018: Featured Emcee Javon Johnson by Lexi Tolson

January 30, 2018

Javon Johnson is a published author, killer poet, and so much more! Javon began writing poetry and performing in 2001, won the national slam in both 2003 and 2004, and placed third in slam nationals in 2005! Javon is also a co-writer of this amazing documentary called Crossover, so go check it out ! Javon also made some pretty special appearances on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Lyric Café, TV One’s Verses and Flow, The Steve Harvey Show, Arsenio Hall Show, and United Shades of America w/ Kamau Bell on CNN, and will be making a grand appearance at our very own Teen Summit! But don’t sleep, along with all of Javon Johnson’s accomplishments, he’s done so much more. Javon earned an Ph.D in Performance Studies, making him Dr. Johnson, along with being an Assistant Professor and Director of African American and African Diaspora studies. Javon has mounted exhibitions at the California African American Museum, managing the history department, and now he’s coming to support our Movement and students in Des Moines Public Schools to get free and stay as woke as we can be! PSA: YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS! Come and get acquainted with Dr. Javon Johnson at RunDSM’s 5th Annual Teen Summit. Our space is your space, and we cant wait to see y’all there! #Teensummit2018

#TeenSummit2018: Mental Health Awareness by Steven Kenyon

January 25, 2018

The students of Urban Leadership are in the midst of producing RunDSM’s 5th Annual Teen Summit, with the goal of providing young people safe spaces to grapple with urgent social issues, becoming ambassadors for change. Today’s blog post, written by Steven Kenyon of North High School, raises awareness on the first of four topics that will guide the conversations, art, and poetry created for this years event: Mental Health and Self-Care. Enjoy!

Mental Health is an unforetold underlying problem within the current generation of youth in this day in age. Many mental disorders and problems go unchecked within the homes, schools, and workplaces of the developing generation of our age which often negatively affects and inhibits our capabilities as human beings. These kinds of topics go unnoticed throughout regular everyday life not knowing how crucial our mental health truly is essential to being able to wake up and be able to function as a person, progress, and be able to positively reach out to those in our lives. Emotionally, physically and mentally we are all susceptible to mental problems, that is why it is a prevalent issue in today’s time and to educate the public and learn how mental health affects the general youth and how we can prevent or assist our peers in those in need of help. Mental health can branch out between several different forms of mental problems, including the types of people that are affected by mental health issues and the disparities between them.

Depression and suicide are prevalent common factors within the generations of youth and are still prevalent and current issues today. Approximately 1 out of 5 youth ages 13-18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. The estimate for children aged 8-15 is 13%.[1] Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in 4,513 deaths in 2008.[2] To follow that up, within a survey of private and public high school students, 13.8% reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide; 10.9% had made a plan for how they would attempt suicide; 6.3% percent reported that they had attempted suicide one or more times within the past year and; 1.9% had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.[3]

Youth mental health does not only broadcast itself to the general audience of society either, it affects everyone including youth from low-income households are at an increased risk for mental health disorders. 21% of low-income children and youth aged 6-17 have mental health disorders[4] including 57% of low-income children and youth come from households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level.[5]

Youth that are involved within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are at an even higher risk for having a mental health disorder. 50% of children in the child welfare system have mental health disorders.[6] 67-70% of youth within the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. [7]  Risks of mental health issues, especially traumatic stress is greatly increased for children who are living within foster care due to abuse and neglect. Children often suffer from traumatic stress due to experiencing or witnessing the injury or death of someone else, or otherwise feeling seriously threatened. [8]

Youth mental health covers a wide variety of people including those of color experiencing disparities in prevalence and treatment for mental health issues. 88% of Latino children and youth have unmet mental health needs compared to 77% for African-Americans and 76% for white children and youth.[9] 31% of white children and youth receive mental health services compared to 13% of children of color.[10] 20% of female Latino high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 15.4% constructed a suicide plan, compared to 16.1% of white female high school students who considered suicide and 12.3% who made a suicide plan.[11]

Looking into the future we need to do something and act together upon the awareness of mental health within our youth. Over a 5-year youth mental health has worsened and is worsening as access to care is limited. Within the 5-year period rates of severe youth depression have increased from 5.9% to 8.2% and over 1.7 million youth with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment, to put that into perspective that’s enough to fill every major league baseball stadium on the east coast twice. Even with severe depression, 76% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment.[12] Through information such as this we can clearly see that we need to come together as a community to help raise awareness about mental health, mental health providers and the effects of mental health disorders to help show how important and crucial this is to the youth.

What can we do?

Part of the process of raising mental health awareness is educating the public and the youth of our generation to take action and be active within the community. Through the process of educating our folks and getting people active to educate others we can help those in need and hopefully lower some of the numbers found in our statistics. Programs and websites such as the ones used above are amazing examples of groups that take action and participate within the important topic that is youth mental health today. Examples of these programs can be found even within some of our own schools such as the SPEAK program within Central Academy which is used to discuss and educate those with youth mental health issues and help assist the community with the struggles that some of our peers may have. The YMHA of Vancouver organizes plenty of events relating towards raising awareness of mental health such as campaigns and fundraisers to help communities with raising awareness. The MHA provides several resources for mental health within America including social media, and annual conferences to provide awareness and help within communities of America relating to mental health. There is a superfluous amount of organizations, associations, and programs all relating to mental health, too many to count, and the more than we gather attention to the rising the current issue of mental health in youth today the more we can help and assist our folks currently struggling with the problems of mental health.

Mental Health Resources


[1] Any Disorder Among Children. (n.d.) Retrieved January 16, 2015, from

[2] CDC, 2008

[3] CDC, 2009

[4] Howell, 2004

[5] Howell, 2004

[6] Burns et al., 2004

[7] Skowyra & Cocozza, 2006

[8] Pynoos et al., 2004

[9] Kataoka, Zhang, & Wells, 2002

[10] Ringel & Sturm, 2001

[11] CDC, 2009

[12] Nguyen, Theresa, et al. State of Mental Health in America 2018, Mental Health America, 2017.