In 2010, I read that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for college students.
That statistic haunted me. With two young boys at home, I knew that I did not want them to ever consider suicide nor did I want any other young man to succumb to it either. And I thought – this has to stop.
In 2011, I began working as a volunteer Regional Vice President for my national fraternity where I was responsible for all 14 Chapters in North Carolina comprised of about 650 undergraduate men. It became a perfect setting to talk with young men to learn more about their lives and the life issues they are facing today.
If I was going to earn their trust, I knew I needed to make myself vulnerable and share my college struggles with them. They learned that I abused alcohol severely in college because I was so afraid of failure and not living up to expectations and that I had suicidal thoughts on multiple occasions. I told them, when I was in college, I was so naïve, I was convinced I was the only one who had issues. I thought I wasn’t as smart, athletic or good looking as the other guys.
My being open with them allowed them to open up to me and now I know most men share many of the same thoughts and fears.
At each Chapter visit, I required every man to take my business card and put it in his wallet. I invited each to call me if they had a troubling personal issue with the assurance that our conversations would be held in strict confidence. I told them, “You will never get in trouble when you ask for my help. If you get in as much trouble asking for help as you do getting caught, who will ever ask for help?”
They started calling me and coming to meet with me by the dozens and shared every issue imaginable – many times in tears. These young men opened up and shared overwhelming issues. They told me that I was the only person they had ever told – it is the most humbling experience of my life.
In developing LifeBrothers, I realized that most men do not share their issues due to their fear it will cause others to think less of them as a man. This fear is driven by societal rules, stigmas and barriers we have been given which are not written but are simply “understood” based upon what has been modeled for us and what is portrayed in the media. Given the many wrong and mixed messages in society, is it any wonder our young adults are so confused?
With the help of over one hundred men, I wrote the LifeBrothers Promise which grew to 20 points which succeed in removing every societal rule, stigma and barrier which discourage men from discussing their issues. The LifeBrothers Promise allows men to discuss ANY issue without fear, shame or hesitation. The Promise is simple but profound in its power to transform lives and create the fraternal bond that many men seek but few men find.