In the space of a few months, Tim Mousseau was sexually assaulted and received news that two of his male friends from college had died, one in a car accident and another to suicide.
These hardships spurred Mousseau onto a path of research into the complex idea of masculinity, and seven years and 250 keynote speeches later, he came to share his findings and his vision to UT students.
Mousseau spoke Wednesday night in the last event of No Shame Movember, a month-long initiative organized by the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) to highlight men’s health issues.
Sporting over 30 tattoos that he designed himself, Mousseau shared the troubling results of his years-long research before the audience in the Student Union auditorium.
While males account for 75% of suicides in the U.S., they constitute merely 5% of those seeking out health support, including treatment for mental health. Additionally, 33% of males ages 18 to 24 report experiencing “extreme isolation” in the last sixth months.
For Mousseau, these issues arise from the way boys and young men are socialized into a view of masculinity that not only encourages silence on issues of emotional weight but also teaches men to attempt to solve problems rather than simply ask questions and listen.
“For many men, they are taught to value stoicism. They are taught not to talk about their emotions ... they are taught not to have conversations around these things,” Mousseau said. “Sometimes the things that we’re going through don’t need to be solved and they don’t need to be fixed. They need to be processed.”
Because men are often unwilling to talk through issues of mental health, they lack the critical support necessary to overcome emotional trauma. Mousseau’s vision is for a culture of masculinity where it is socially acceptable for men to talk openly with each other about their emotional and mental health.
As a young man who enjoys being open and “sentimental” with his own male friends, freshman Kyle Norris shares Mousseau’s vision.
“I think that it’s very important that you open up to other men and have strong relationships and aren’t afraid to show what you truly feel on the inside,” Norris said. “If you don’t say ‘I love you’ to your homies, then something is wrong.”
But, of course, though he does not use the term “toxic masculinity,” Mousseau acknowledges that masculinity is to blame for much of the sexual assault problem in the U.S. 90% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, and this is cause for a renewed challenge to the worst parts of traditional masculinity.
Rather than wait until a rape or an overdose occurs, Mousseau passionately called the audience to intervene against minor troubling behaviors, from heavy drinking and catcalling to jokes about sexual assault. If they go unchecked, these behaviors will lead to larger, possibly criminal manifestations of the danger of masculinity.
“Oftentimes when we talk about these things in general, we only think about the worst case scenario. We have to stop doing that,” Mousseau said. “We shouldn’t wait until events happen before we try and support men, because if we’re waiting for those big things to happen, then we’re already far too late.”
To finish off his talk, Mousseau provided resources for men who are struggling through mental health issues, including the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), the 1 in 6 Helpline — a reference to the percentage of men who experience sexual assault and abuse — and the 974-HELP hotline available to all UT students.
But perhaps the resource most emblematic of Mousseau’s personable and approachable style was his own personal cell phone number. For those who are struggling with their own masculinity and the resultant mental health problems, Mousseau can be reached at (505) 463-3868. He’s a big talker, and he would love to chat.