Saving our Sons: A local expert’s advice for parents with struggling teen boys

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s been called the silent crisis and an epidemic: the rate of depression and suicide in our boys and young men.

Gender expert Dr. Michael Gurian of Spokane has written 32 books, including one titled “Saving our Sons.”

“I would definitely agree with the Surgeon General and the CDC. I think it is an epidemic, a mental health epidemic,” he said.

Dr. Gurian has studied male and female behaviors, dynamics and brains for decades.

Some of the biggest issues he is seeing with mental health issues in our boys and young men center around changes in the environment, society and nurturing.

“The way we treat males now, we don’t really support boys in growing up to become men,” said Gurian.

Over the years, he’s seen a shift in parenting and the way boys are treated in schools.

The trend has been to make boys more like girls, even referring to them as “defective girls.”

“You know, we’d really like them to be more like girls in the way they talk, the way they emote, the way they act in school,” Gurian said.

Boys are disciplined more. They are repressed. That turns into frustration and can lead to inner struggles. 

“So, of course, we have many problems, depression, anxiety, violence, a lot of violence.. and so it’s been building for many decades.”

There are things parents, teachers and anyone in child development can do to help change the course for our boys.

Dr. Gurian will give some real-life tools at the Helping Boys Thrive Summit this Saturday.

READ: Saving our Sons: The ‘Helping Boys Thrive’ summit

If you are worried about your son’s mental health right now, he says there are three things you can do.

1 – Get them off of screens or at least get screen time down to an appropriate limit for their age and development. 

“A lot of what anxiety and depression that we’re seeing in our teens now is connected, at least, in part to screens and to the way the dopamine is being affected in the brain,” Gurian said. 

2 – Watch for social isolation. Are they staying in their room? Not participating in usual activity? Losing friends? 

3 – Seek the right kind of help

“When you see that your child is having trouble, like especially with boys, interview those counselors, just like interviewing the schools, to see if they understand males. Does the counselor work with adolescent boys?” said Gurian.

These points are just scratching the surface of how we can help boys and young men.

Dr. Gurian has written 32 books, has a website full of information and has a podcast. Here’s where to learn more.