It’s Thursday June 12th, 2024 and we have just edged ourselves into Men’s Health Week. For those of you who have read any of my work, you will know I am no fan of days and weeks that hold a specific agenda; World Fairy Day, Global Ant Week, National Day of Eating Artichokes. They are mere flash in the pans. They create a hiatus, a peak, some trending hashtags and the odd news item here and there. Then, gone for another 12 months. I personally don’t believe this is how our best transformation happens. It happens when there is consistency and persistence. A momentum and will to face into the challenges we are all living through.

And Men’s Health Week or no Men’s Health Week, I feel pulled to speak into the topic. Today in particular.

Like most mornings, I walk. I take the pooch out for a stroll around the local lanes or we step out and onto the paths that weave their way through the wheat fields next door to our home. I won’t lie, it’s absolute bliss. We are fortunate to have landed in our own slither of paradise. Like most of our walks, I chat away to the pooch and yet he rarely answers back. It doesn’t stop me talking, thinking and finding ways to empty out – to take the contents of my mind and tip them upside down in some hope that what is redundant, drops down to be consumed by a passing slug and our dear Mother Earth. Today was no different. Worries about money. Ideas for my upcoming book publication. Things I need to do in the garden. My health, my body, my mind. And then there were the thoughts that I found myself unable to shake off. They are stuck to the edges of my heart, resisting being dumped. There must be some good reason for this…

For those of you in the UK, you may have heard on the news this week about the two 12 year old boys charged with murder. They are the youngest in the UK to be charged for a murder committed by the use of knives. They are 12. They don’t even have their feet planted in their teenage years. They are 12. The man they so savagely killed with a machete, was just 19. Shawn Seesahai was walking through a park with his friend following cataract surgery when the unprovoked attack took place. Not that provocation would make this in any way OK. The fatal wound penetrated his heart. The blows to his skull were so intense, a piece of bone broke away. These two boys intended to kill. They are 12. They purchased the machete for £40 a few months prior to the killing. With blood dripping from the blade, they cleaned it with bleach and one of them hid it under his bed following the attack. They. Are. 12.

What the fuck went wrong? How did two children find their way to this juncture of life? What on earth were they taught? What were they shown? What have they seen? Perhaps we should be asking what they were not taught or shown? What did they not get to see? What did they not feel as kids? What firm holding was merely loose, floppy or non-existent?

I’ve seen some reports that lay all the blame on the parents. Sure, they play a large part in this story of their life so far. But they are not the only ones who are accountable. No, this ripples much much further; their familial system of heritage, their community, social media, influencers, their teachers, the shops that sell knives to kids, film makers, friends, family of friends. You. Me. Us. Society. We are all responsible. They are 12.

There is a saying and I don’t know if I made this up or if it’s been around for years and I have stolen it, but I’m not too fussed which of these it is. The statement goes, ‘we cannot be what we cannot see’. It needs no explanation. These kids had no chance. What they needed to see, was hidden. Shrouded in a cloak of invisibility. Masked by patriarchal systems that rendered them emotional cripples. Boys learn self-betrayal early and are rewarded for these acts of soul murder.

I am trying to shake the thoughts of these lives that have just been halted in their tracks. The killers, their family, Shawn, his family, the police investigation team who had to view this heinous act of destruction – lives changed, forever. The trouble is, I can’t shake the thoughts. I keep coming back to the same question, how have we all got this so terribly wrong? Yes, all. I’m pointing at you. My mum always said it was rude to point. But in this instance, maybe it is the only way I can single you out.

As I often express, I am extremely fortunate. I live a good life. Yes, a touch of incurable cancer gets in my way and the last 3 years have been more than a tad trying for me and my family. But other than that, I have lived a good life. My parents did their absolute best, with all the knowledge and insight they had, to hold me safely and well. My mum remains a hypochondriac and my dad had one day off work in his life. He was a silent worrier. He would pop a Librium pill when he felt anxious. But he never ever spoke of it. He didn’t show his anxiety. He also didn’t assure me that it was ok to speak about mine. He buried it away and medicated it. My dad was not shown how to be. He didn’t get to see it. His own father died when he was young and he was packed off to boarding school. Now I don’t know much about boarding schools, but I don’t sense they are breeding grounds for qualities of the mature masculine. He didn’t get to see them. So I didn’t get to see them either. I was however offered just enough crumbs and then left to go out in search of the rest, myself. A lone traveller on the hunt for what makes up the mature masculine. As I near 52, the search continues.

So whilst this week we find ourselves flying the flag for Men’s Health Week, what about the boys? Whilst we perhaps look to consider our own health (psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual) are we not also required to consider the health of our boys? Our future generations? The 12 year olds who need guidance, support and love? What about all the boys who are not held safely? What about the ones who live amongst fear, violence and shame? Should we not be giving them opportunities to see what we hope they may, at some point, be? Why are we not providing them with positive opportunities, instead of traumatic ones? This journey into adulthood for our young men is so critical. Why do our schools not create spaces for our young boys to mature into men that they are proud of being? Where are the places for our boys to heal and grow stronger?

We are short changing our boys. And by doing so, we are short changing the future of our society and our planet.

With a UK election about to hit us, most of what I am hearing from politicians leaves me yawning. I hear talk of taxes, housing and National Insurance. Where is the talk about how we create a safe and mature society? Which politicians are stepping up and daring to speak about the crisis we have amongst our boys? From what I see, none of them. They play around behind the façade of big hitting manifestos which appear mostly crammed full of the same old bullshit that they spouted last time we had an election.

I’m pointing at you, yes you. And you. And you over there. They are 12. 12. They are boys. They might not know better, but we do. Don’t we?

I don’t have a solution. I dearly wish I did have as maybe it would stop families having to live through the darkest depths of the pain that come with violent and bloodied murder.

So whilst I encourage you to reflect on the men in your life this week and their health, what about the boys…? I encourage you to think about them too.

Father and son