5 Critical Ways Men Can Help Each Other Through The Loneliness Epidemic

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group of male friends

In a famous scene from the crime family epic, the Sopranos, mob boss Tony Soprano meets with his therapist and admits that he has to put on a clown face for the world while inside, he feels hopelessly sad. The “sad clown face” from the Sopranos has become shorthand, among my F3 brothers, for the plight of so many men in 2023.

We work hard, do our best as fathers, socialize primarily with our wife’s friends, and end up desperately alone.

On May 3, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report entitled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.”

It’s been all over the news the last few days, citing “29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases the risk of premature death by more than 60%” and has terrible consequences for mental health.

Thank God. I have been joking with friends that Vivek must have been reading my Substack and finally listened up.

The report is silent on the outsized impact on men, particularly young men, but that is fine.

Everyone is lonely. And everyone suffers the consequences.

It’s just that those consequences are much more profound among males who naturally shy away from deep social connections.

I love and respect and want to lift up women, but I am not one. I’m a guy, so my primary concern is the sad clown-face guys.

Reading the report, I find the action items to solve this epidemic underwhelming. They are certainly not much help to the guys suffering in silence. They are: strengthen social infrastructure, enact pro-connection public policies, mobilize the health sector, reform digital environments, deepen our knowledge, and cultivate a culture of connection. Similarly, many articles about the report offer “expert” advice on combatting loneliness, most of which I found pretty underwhelming.

But there are things you can do to find a better path.

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If you suffer from Sad Clown Face, here are five ways to proactively move forward

1. Reach out to five male mentors or friends you admire

Think of five men you admired at any point in your life, not for their success but for who they are and how they carried themselves. Contact each of these five men and arrange to meet them for coffee or lunch. When you meet up, don’t lie about how you are feeling. Be as truthful as you possibly can. Ask for their advice. Ask to stay in touch. And follow up.

Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith,” or F3, is a nationwide organization of 75,000 men meeting in small groups early in the morning to work out, have fellowship, and practice totally non-denominational faith. The workout is honestly to get everyone together. The power is in the fellowship

2. Reach out to a male family member you respect

Think about the men in your family and extended family. Which of these men do you respect the most? Feel closest to, now or in the past? Reach out to that guy. Have dinner one on one. Tell him the truth about you. Ask about his life. Focus on building a deeper relationship. We all need male connections who understand our family, even if it’s a third cousin.

Every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, I have a speaker series for men which features inspiring talks from authors, former inmates, men recovering from gambling problems, and successful CEOs who have had to face their shadow. The bar for participation is incredibly low. You have to show up on Zoom. You can turn your camera off and delete your name. Just come. And listen to men talking about real problems

3. Explore your own spirituality

Find some way of practicing a form of spirituality you are comfortable with in the presence of other men. This could be a bible study group, and it could be a men’s AA meeting, it could be meditation, yoga, or an outdoor club. I don’t give a damn what it is, but I realize that you are not God, whether or not you are a believer, and there is a special connection we as men can foster when with other men who share a common search for meaning and faith of whatever kind.

RELATED: 7 Examples Of Healthy Masculinity In Relationships

4. Make a list of at least five men you can call any time you're upset

The research is that we as men need at least five men in our lives we could call up in the middle of the night, no questions asked, just if we are upset. Or someone in our family is sick. Or we are having a problem at work that is bothering you. The goal of these five suggestions is to increase that number. Not to build more shallow transactional friendships but deep, authentic relationships. Those are the ones that will save your ass and prevent depression and premature death. They will give you a renewed sense of meaning in your life.

5. Share the message of connection

The last thing: Share this message with all the men in your life. Even just doing that will provoke conversations you might never have thought possible. And it might just save your life. 

RELATED: 12 Signs You're Experiencing A Divine Masculine Awakening

Tom Matlack is on a mission to help men. His weekly speakers series and writing on Substack help men connect with one another and their own emotional well-being. He adores his wife of 20 years and his three children. 

This article was originally published at Substack. Reprinted with permission from the author.