'Cowboy mentality' blamed for country's worsening suicide rate among men

Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy previously warned about 'epidemic of loneliness'

A "cowboy mentality" of wanting to "man up" could be a factor in the epidemic of male loneliness, a New York University professor implied on Sunday.

Professor Niobe Way spoke with the Washington Post in a story about the rise in an "alternative conception of American masculinity" to combat the lack of connection between men. When tackling the "epidemic of loneliness" plaguing the nation, Way suggested that it comes from the overly masculine way boys are raised.

"Niobe Way, a professor of developmental psychology at New York University and the author of ‘Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,’ said many boys are raised with what she called ‘the cowboy mentality' – 'I can do it myself, I don’t need others’ – often perpetuated by ‘the father wanting the son to man up and not be so soft. … The whole model of getting help is part of so-called femininity,’" the article reads.

Cowboys on horses

Professor Niobe Way suggested that a "cowboy mentality" of "I can do it myself" could factor into male loneliness. (Getty Images)

"Women end up being the therapist for their husband, and more are getting sick of it," Way added.


Mark Greene, a founder of Remaking Manhood, a consultancy that works with organizations to help improve men’s professional relationships, also spoke with the Washington Post and blamed society for stifling male expression.

"If a boy expresses too much emotion or too much need for connection, is too giddy, is too joyful, what we say to that boy is, ‘What are you, a sissy? What are you, a girl? What are you, gay?’" Greene said. "It’s your job to dominate those around you, or you will lose status, and that will increase the number of individuals above you who can dish out dominance to you. And what we find is that in that system, in that structure, men are constantly in competition with each other and constantly driven by this sense of anxiety."

Loneliness Teenage Girls

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory about the "epidemic of loneliness" in May. (iStock)

Way and Greene’s diagnosis resembles the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines from 2019 that suggest traditional masculinity based on research is "harmful."

"The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful," the guidelines read.


In May, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory titled "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community."

"Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling – it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day," the report reads.

Boy sits alone on park swing

The American Psychological Association said in 2019 that traditional masculinity is "harmful." (iStock

Murthy also told the Associated Press, "We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It's like hunger or thirst. It's a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing."

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