‘Lessons in bromance’ can help boys maintain their mental health, avoid suicidal thoughts

SURREY, United Kingdom — According to a teacher and author, schools should provide “lessons in bromance” to address the mental health crisis among boys. Matt Pinkett’s new book proposes that classes centered around anger management, friendship, and active listening could potentially reduce male suicide rates.

Pinkett’s book delves into key research that explores factors influencing boys’ mental health, discussing topics such as body image, pornography, and self-harm. Additionally, it offers practical strategies for teachers to initiate positive change. The guide is grounded in evidence gathered from teachers, school staff, well-being experts, and therapists.

Research indicates that teenage boys are twice as likely as girls to die by suicide, a rate that triples when boys transition into adulthood. According to official data used by the U.K.-based researcher, 264 people between 10 and 19 years-old committed suicide in 2020 in England, Scotland, and Wales — with boys constituting 72 percent of these cases. In England specifically, suicide is the leading cause of death among men under 45.

Despite these grim statistics, Pinkett remains optimistic. In his book, “Boys Do Cry: Improving Boys’ Mental Health and Wellbeing in School,” he urges teachers to refrain from stigmatizing anger, suggesting they should instead help boys understand the neurological and physiological roots of their feelings.

“Anger isn’t inherently bad. Telling boys it is only leads to shame and concealment. Instead, we should teach them that anger is as natural as joy or sadness, and equip them with the tools to manage it and the language to express it,” the author says in a media release.

Teen boy sad, depressed, alone
(© Irina Polonina – stock.adobe.com)

Pinkett also believes that teachers should normalize loving, male relationships. He maintains that every social interaction in the classroom is observed and internalized, hence, male teachers should openly compliment male colleagues, speak affectionately about others, and acknowledge and applaud male emotional vulnerability whenever possible. He advocates for teaching boys about bromances, as this can furnish young men with the skills to listen actively and exhibit compassion and affection towards one another.

“I am not suggesting that we should ever try to be therapists – that would never work. However, the fact is that we are in front of these children for significant portions of their lives. If we can speak positively about male emotions and demonstrate ways of dealing with problematic feelings, that would be a powerful thing,” says Pinkett, who also co-authored the book, “Boys Don’t Try.”

He further adds that the challenge lies not in encouraging young men to talk, but rather in teaching their peers to listen. Pinkett’s research suggests that boys don’t listen as effectively as girls.

“There is so much discussion about encouraging boys and men to speak up, but are we teaching them how to support each other through effective listening?”

Three men, close friends, camping and hanging out
(Photo by True Touch Lifestyle on Shutterstock)

His research proposes that boys yearn for emotional intimacy and the liberty to express themselves without ridicule. However, he identifies toxic masculinity as an obstacle to nurturing these beneficial peer relationships. He believes boys should be taught kindness, vulnerability, and emotional articulation. Pinkett hopes his book will embolden others to tackle difficult topics that will benefit everyone.

“This isn’t just a problem for teenage boys. If we can teach these boys to discard harmful and outdated expectations of masculinity, society as a whole will benefit. It is only through education that the blight of male-on-female sexual abuse, assault, and harassment can be eradicated.”

Armed with extensive research, Pinkett offers advice on intervening when a child may be at risk and provides tips on establishing group tasks that foster friendships while facilitating learning.

“This isn’t about turning teachers into therapists. It’s simply about having the courage to intervene and provide boys with an opportunity to learn a different way of being.”

South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.

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