During the 2015-2016 school year as a Field Executive for Theta Chi Fraternity, I conducted visits at over 25 chapters and colonies from Terre Haute, Indiana all the way up to Oswego, New York. Every time a visit is conducted a Field Executive makes a presentation to the chapter on the policies of FIPG (Fraternal Information & Programming Group). The policies of FIPG cover four main areas: Alcohol and Drugs, Hazing, Sexual Abuse and Harassment, and Fire/Life Safety (http://fipg.org/). Fire/Life Safety remains an important area for our chapters to focus on.
That’s why I wanted to discuss some simple ways to make sure your living quarters are safe from a fire. Here are a few of the FIPG guidelines to keep in mind:
- Meeting local fire, health, and safety codes/complying with engineering standards are best done through the owner of the property whether it’s an alumni corporation, the school or a 3rd party landlord.
- If you see something unsafe, speak up!
- Posting emergency phone numbers (fire/police/ambulance) in common areas is an extremely easy task. Create, print, and hang up.
- Having evacuation routes posted on the back of each door throughout the house is also a must.
- Possessing a gun is often not permissible on college campuses and never in fraternity houses. Most, if not all, school police stations have gun lockers free for students to use.
- Candles can make your room smell like a gingerbread house; they can also turn the house into a giant campfire. If you are really determined to make your room smell better check your local grocery store. Plug-in air fresheners cost no more than $2 apiece.
Is your house in need of renovations to make it safer and more livable for current and future generations of Theta Chi brothers? The Norwich Housing Corporation, a not-for-profit lender that provides housing loans to alumni-led house corporations associated with chapters of Theta Chi Fraternity, offers Life Safety Loans for these types situations. These loans are offered for financing housing upgrades that are necessary for the reduction of serious safety risks. For more information visit https://www.thetachi.org/the-norwich-housing-corporation/. If you believe that your house would qualify for this loan and are interested email Jim Powell, Chief Financial Officer and Associate Executive Director at JPowell@thetachi.org.
For more information, check out these past blog posts written by Brother Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada. He is the recently retired Nevada State Fire Marshal.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Nick Hoke, Field Executive
The night of September 28, 2014, I received a phone call as I pulled into my driveway. I expected the voice on the other end to radiate positive energy as I had grown accustomed to over the years. Katelyn Katsafanas is the type of person I aspire to be, day in and day out. When my name comes up on someone’s phone, I want to give off that energy too. Unfortunately, when I answered, the conversation that happened was not what I had expected. Katelyn needed my help. A brother needed my help.
Katelyn was dating my pledge brother and best friend, Parker Jordan.
To say Parker and I were close would be an understatement. We received our bids to join Theta Chi Fraternity at the University of Alabama together and from that point on, we forged a relationship that could rival George Strait and Pat Green’s any day. Everyone knew it—we were Texans and like any person blessed to be born in the greatest state in the Union, we were damn proud of it.
Over the years, Parker would come to my family home in Mobile for Mardi Gras and I would play golf with him at his home course in Fort Worth. It was obvious; we were put here to entertain each other and to make lasting memories throughout our time at Alabama. More than friends, we were brothers.
The conversation that came from that phone call shocked me more than anything up to that point in my life. She told me she was worried about Parker. More than worried, actually. She was scared he may hurt himself.
Parker and Katelyn were always upbeat, happy, fun, loud, and the life of the party. She was an amazing match for him, and from the outside looking in, things were perfect in their often glowing little world.
We didn’t know about the demons waging war inside of him. The treacherous mine field Parker was living in was something none of us could comprehend. Katelyn knew I needed to be with Parker in that moment and I could feel it in my bones, she was right.
I remember the conversation we had that night. We talked about school. Parker was in a grueling intermediate accounting course and his ability to think clearly was starting to fade. The stress just intensified the feelings of self-doubt already blurring his thoughts. He was worried he wouldn’t make the grades he needed to get into our local Accounting Honor Society. Parker was making A’s and B’s on all his tests, but still he was overwhelmed. I felt like he was better after we talked it through. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to. I wanted to sleep on his couch that evening but he insisted he was okay. Before I left, we set up a meeting for him with our Dean of Students office and talked about how Katelyn contacted his family.
He promised me, in a tear filled hug, he would not hurt himself. I told him I loved him and headed home.
At this point, an entire support system was beginning to form around Parker. Our Vice President of Health and Safety, Johnston Watkins and a few brothers noticed Parker wasn’t himself and began to check in on him, regularly. This group didn’t even know about the rest of us doing what we could to help Parker. They knew the oaths they took to watch after each other and were living our creed. This was the Fraternity in its most pure form. Brothers looking out for one another and doing everything they could to help. We are our brother’s keeper to the best of our ability.
Parker took his own life, 2 years ago today.
As I write these words, tears still fall. Two years later the pain is still very raw and very real, but I firmly believe on that day, Parker knew he was loved. Mental illness is scary. Modern science still struggles to understand all of its intricacies, just as we do, with those we love suffering from it every day. We will never understand why Parker choose to leave us but the events which followed that horrible day provide comfort for us all.
I have never felt the full breadth of our brotherhood as I did in the days that followed Parker’s death. I was the Chapter President at the time and the outpouring from brothers from around the country was astounding. Hundreds of emails, calls, and texts flooded my phone. If you are reading this today and were one of those people who sent your condolences: Thank You. Your love and support is what this Fraternity truly embodies.
Over the past two years, tens of thousands of dollars for mental health research have been raised in Parker’s name. Right now, a Parker Jordan Memorial Scholarship is being created. Dedicated people who loved Parker have managed to create some good out of this tragedy.
Nothing will bring Parker back. I desperately wish I had the power to do that. The power I do have is to honor him by living the life we often discussed together.
For the readers still with me here, I hope this inspires you to never take a moment for granted. To be cognizant when considering the health, physical and mental, of those around you. Recognize the signs of depression and suicidal tendencies early and never hesitate to act.
Marcus Gibson (Alpha Phi/Alabama 2015)
Editor’s note: It is important to recognize the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. Below are a list of warning signs as well as resources for yourself or those you know who might be in danger of hurting themselves. Make sure you understand your role and promote the intervention of professionals. If someone tells you they want to take their life, offer help and compassion but know there are ways to ensure their safety too. You can report the threat to the police and in most situations, they can physically intervene and take them to a safe place.
According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Click here to find Support for yourself or someone you know
1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Labor Day Weekend gets deadlier every year. Unfortunately, this trend is not new and the rates have been rising over the past 50 years. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 405 preventable fatalities will take place this weekend.
This sobering information takes my mind back to this time a few years ago when I lost an old friend of mine in a reckless driving accident.
Stuart and I were instant friends when we met at church camp during middle school. That seems to happen with everyone though right? Thrust into a situation where you know either a bunch of folks or no one and you have to make it work. Something was different about Stuart though. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. His sense of humor disarmed everyone. Owning his “big boy” appearance with jokes about his weight, his seemingly always red cheeks, and as we got older, his “old-lady mobile” (he drove a Buick during high school.)
Every year, we would reconvene at church camp. Sometimes without having seen each other since the summer before, but as we got older and were given car privileges/later curfews, Stuart and I became even closer. We realized we grew up just miles away from each other in a large city’s suburban outskirts but were only separated by school zone boundaries. We would go to church together on Sundays and Wednesdays and to rock shows on the weekend. He was always down for a good laugh or a serious talk and we would often jump back and forth between the two. Stuart and I came from vastly different upbringings, but we connected on such a deep level it was hard to keep us separated. You knew stepping foot into his space to be prepared for anything, but you knew you would be different when you stepped out of it. He had that kind of effect.
As we got older, church camps became a thing of the past, college choices were made, and distance came between us. This is something I know most people can relate to, but with Stuart, it was different. No matter the distance, we kept in touch. Through Facebook or random texts, he was always there. Always joking. Always laughing. We watched each other grow from afar but we always knew we had a bond. Our bonds would grow stronger with other people over time, but we always had our childhood. We always had summers and rock shows.
Stuart was in his last semester at Texas State University and set to graduate with a degree in Political Science in December. It was a typical Friday night- hanging out with friends, laughing (his laugh was contagious), telling jokes (not sure if anyone could top his), and responsibly enjoying drinks. As the night was winding down, Stuart was ready to head home and got into the passenger seat of his friend’s car. That was the last ride Stuart would take.
Stuart died at the scene. The car, going over 90 mph, smashed into a retaining wall and eventually wrapping around a tree just west of a golf course. The driver, lost his life later that morning in the hospital.
Reckless driving is one of many risky behaviors to avoid this weekend. In an effort to keep roadways safe, the NSC offers these safe driving tips for Labor Day weekend travelers:
- Don’t drink and drive. Police Officers will be in full force focusing attention on impaired drivers.
- If you do drink, make arrangements for a designated driver or a taxi.
- Wear your seat belt. It is estimated that 148 people may survive collisions this weekend because they will have worn safety belts.
- Enforce a distraction-free zone for drivers. This includes cell phones, gps, etc. – Designate a DJ for the car and someone to text for your driver.
- Allow plenty of travel time to discourage speeding and frustration.
- Drive alert and exercise extreme caution at all times.
Please enjoy yourselves responsibly this weekend and let’s start the fall semester off right.
College. We’re adults now. We’ve heard a thing or two about the birds and the bees. It’s a time when many people begin to have sexual experiences. Whether or not it’s your first time, sex should be an enjoyable and consensual experience.
But then there’s drunk sex. In college you learn you might like alcohol; you might like to have sex. So is it a good idea to put the two together? The truth is, a lot of people are having drunk sex. It happens. People get drunk, have sex, and they might even think it’s consensual.
You’re at a bar and having a few drinks when you notice someone. They’re having a drink too. You two hit it off right away and your flirt game is better than ever. What are the odds? One thing leads to another and you end up back at their place.
Now it’s morning.
Do you remember asking for consent, or did you wake up and not even think about it?
Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no way for you to tell if another person may be too intoxicated to give consent. They may wake up in the morning and realize that they were taken advantage of while under the influence, regardless of what you thought in the moment. Again, if alcohol is involved, there is NO WAY for you to tell if a person is capable of giving consent.
The news headlines blare: “Fraternity Guy Takes Advantage of Drunk College Girl.”
Maybe it seems unlikely to you that this can happen. You’re a “good guy” who doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. The reality is, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 college aged women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
The best way to avoid sexually assaulting someone is to obtain consent. Each state legally defines consent in its own way. While this may seem confusing, RAIIN.org explains the three main components each state uses to define consent: freely given consent, affirmative consent, and capacity to consent. Our focus today is a person’s capacity to give consent. In many states, if a person has consumed any alcohol whatsoever, they legally DO NOT have the capacity to give consent.
You may ask: “So even if they said yes, verbally, enthusiastically, and we were both drunk, this can be considered rape? So every time I had drunk sex, I risked committing a sexual assault?”
Women are often taught ways to avoid being raped: Stay with friends, pour your own drinks, carry pepper spray, etc., but as a man, a fraternity man, what should we be taught? A good first step is opening the discussion on what consent is, and how and when to obtain it. Understand the fact that consent isn’t just a onetime question, but a continuous conversation. Realize that any amount of alcohol negates consent. Educate your members on effective bystander intervention and the role brothers can take to prevent sexual assault throughout the entire community. It is our Sacred Purpose to prevent sexual assaults, because even one is too many.
When you ask for consent, you respect the answer. Period.
If you’re having trouble understanding consent, here’s a helpful video:
PJ Ricketson, Field Executive
I remember the day I knew I was gay. I began having those butterfly feelings in my stomach you hear about in the movies. It was then I knew deep down I had my first crush, and it was on a guy. I knew at that very moment I was not the same as everyone else. I was young, however, and I didn’t really understand the concept of “gay.” Not yet, at least.
For years afterwards, I told myself I had to like girls and anything less was unacceptable. I told myself the part of me who liked guys was just a collection of thoughts—it wasn’t real. While I would tell others I was straight, few would believe it. For years I was bullied because, to others, I seemed different. Every day at school was daunting and miserable; those were some of the darkest years of my life. Those who have been bullied know exactly what that’s like, and while I have forgiven, it is hard to forget.
In high school, I briefly dated a couple girls. Still, I noticed guys who were attractive to me. I told myself that attraction was just “thoughts.” While I never felt one hundred percent comfortable with my sexuality, I felt I finally put that part of me—those thoughts—behind me.
When I arrived at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) I became involved on campus through the Student Government Association. By second semester I accepted a bid to join an interest group that would become the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. While we were still a colony, I began to date a woman at NKU. Even though I had told myself and others I was straight, people still suspected otherwise just as they had years before. The relationship just didn’t feel right, and after a month and a half I ended the relationship. I knew it hurt her, but I couldn’t keep pretending I was happy.
After that relationship, I put dating behind me. I accepted a position on a Cincinnati City Council campaign and devoted much of that summer to it and to my internship at the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. I was really happy working in politics and at the courthouse. In addition, Theta Chi was coming together very strong. By the time sophomore year began, I was beginning to come into my prime.
In November my candidate won a seat on Cincinnati City Council and our colony installed as the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. I began to make a name for myself on campus. My self-confidence grew. When spring semester rolled in, I was appointed to the Interfraternity Council to serve as Vice President of Membership. It was also around this time I noticed someone in an unexpected way – through Twitter. One of my chapter brothers retweeted one of his tweets; I clicked on his profile and found he and I had similar political and social views. I found him on Facebook and sent an innocuous friend request; he accepted it and we began to chat and learn more about each other. As we chatted more and more, I could tell there was a feeling greater than friendship. That part of me—those thoughts—had begun to come back. This time, however, I could not just put those thoughts away. This time was different, and I knew it. I felt it.
By February, things with this guy progressed and we admitted we liked each other. That is when I knew it was time for me to come out.
My chapter brothers immediately came to mind, so at one of our chapter meetings in February I came out, initially as bisexual so I could still hold out hope that I would be “normal.” In my mind, being bisexual was still better than being gay. I was very nervous doing it, but I hoped my brothers would be accepting: that’s exactly what they were. After meeting about a dozen brothers came up to me and congratulated me. One of my brothers said, “All I want is for you to be happy; I’m glad you came out.” They all told me how proud they were of me, and for the first time I felt completely normal.
Things did not work out with that guy. Soon after, however, I dated another guy and I knew I was gay. Not bisexual, but gay. That was my truth and I was finally able to live in it.
The fraternal movement has not always been known to be accepting of its LGBTQ members. There are countless examples from the past—both told and untold—of fraternities hazing, bullying, and kicking out brothers who either came out or whom they suspected of being gay. The most operative word there is “past.”
This is the present.
My Theta Chi brothers created a culture of caring through our collective Sacred Purpose which I needed to finally develop the courage to be who I am and nothing less. In a way, Theta Chi and Greek life saved my life. Without their acceptance, I don’t believe my mental health, to this day, would be in a strong place. Holding onto that burden was one of the hardest things I have ever done. With their support, I live authentically. I live my best life. Theta Chi took a timid college freshman who was lying to himself about his sexuality and helped him become a confident and proud man.
I don’t think I would be where I am today, a First Year at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, without the loving, respectful, and accepting environment that exists in Theta Chi Fraternity. These ideals are the Sacred Purpose we are all called to live. We need to remember this and put it in practice every single day.
Patrick Reagan (Iota Tau/Northern Kentucky 2016)
With recent national and world events in mind I sat down and thought about what I would do if I was thrust into a situation where my safety and those around me became dangerous. After a recent attack in what was, up until six months ago my home, I never really thought it could happen to me.
Never in my city. Never in my neighborhood. Never on my street.
My naivety got the best of me when an armed gunman took the lives of Dallas and DART police officers last week in downtown Dallas, Texas. I’ve spent countless hours at a park suspended over a highway in downtown. I’ve spent days and nights in museums blocks away, plenty of money on basketball games in the same area, and my fair share of brunches on patios downtown. This was my home and the home to many friends and family. My best friend lived in a high-rise 2 blocks north up until 3 weeks ago. He was in his office a few blocks away working late, as usual, when gunshots rang out. When word hit my twitter feed I was stunned. In a panic, I sent him a text, “just stay inside”.
Then an even larger cloud of uncertainty came over me. The protesters; I know them. They were my neighbors, my colleagues, and my friends. How do I make sure they are safe? How do they know what to do? This isn’t something they teach you in school. What would I do? What do you do?
While officials say the likelihood of being caught up in an attack is “very, very small”, the public is urged to follow these steps if you should hear gunshots or an explosion in your office, school, residence hall, or in public.
Run to a place of safety but only if you can.
- First consider your route. Is it safe? Will it put you in the line of fire?
- Act quickly and quietly
- Leave your belongings behind
- Insist on others coming with you
Hide if you can’t run somewhere safely.
- When looking for a hiding place, avoid dead-ends and bottlenecks
- Asses weather your hiding place will be substantially protected from gunfire
- If you’ve locked yourself in a room, barricade yourself in and move away from the door
- Stay quiet; do not shout for help
- Turn your phone onto silent and switch off vibrate
Tell the police of the attack.
- If you are able to evacuate get as far away as possible
- If it is safe to do so, try and stop others from entering
- Dial 911 and tell the operator of the location of you and the attacker(s)
- Include descriptions of your surroundings as well as if there are casualties.
- When approached by officers, keep your hands in plain sight at all times.
While this is by no means a catch-all post of what to do in the event of an attack, these steps are proven to have saved lives. You will not know what to do until it happens to you but being as proactive as possible is always a best practice. Sacred Purpose is about keeping our brothers safe and with these steps you can keep yourself, your brothers, and your community safe during a frightening situation.
*Information provided from the National Police Chiefs’ Council in the UK
The following is a personal philosophy I have adopted about life.
- Always dress well.
- Golf is one of the only sports where polos and dress pants are a norm. Only in golf do get rewarded with a jacket as a trophy. Some people may argue that such attire has no impact on play. Those people would be wrong or Rickie Fowler
- In life, dressing for success is more than just something for business meetings. How you dress is a mentality. When you put effort into your appearance, whatever it may be, you feel confident.
- Golf should never have a peak.
- Unlike other sports where players can be in their prime for only a short part of their life, golf is a sport you can play for your whole life. Don’t believe me here is the legend Jack Nicklaus at 75 still killing the game.
- When we focus on our peaks in life we see past success and compare it to our current situation. When I got to college nothing I did in high school mattered. Those achievements got me in the door and that was all. Now a college graduate, my college accomplishments don’t mean anything either. No one cares about which tier my fraternity was in or how we did in intramurals. When you graduate you can choose to have high school/college be the peak for the rest of your life or focus on your next summit.
- A far drive off the tee-box doesn’t mean a birdie
- Some golfers care too much about their drive. Go to any driving range and you will see 90% of the people there straining their backs with the newest possible driver, swinging for the fences. Meanwhile hardly any person is seen at the chipping green. Short game isn’t sexy, but it is what makes you a great golfer. Anyone who has seen the master of short game Phil Mickelson knows this to be the case.
- In life we spend too much time on what makes us look cool rather than what actually gives our lives substance. This can be illustrated by the guys who go to the gym every day to maintain that unrealistic “perfect” physique, while ignoring the growth in other areas of life. He often doesn’t study. He repeatedly neglects his responsibilities. He doesn’t aim to be promoted at his job. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is a relentless business man who grows his brand outside of just working out. Live a well-rounded life.
- You’re going to play horrible some rounds
- In golf you will play bad. You will get a snowman on a hole. Even the best have an atrocious hole now and then. Take this Jordan Spieth meltdown for example
- Much like one bad shot can lead to another and another; bad days tend to compound themselves. This is going to happen in life. Whole months may pass where you forget what a good day feels like. Simple aspects of life like getting out of bed become a chore. But with each new day, is a new round and has the potential for the best day of your life.
- If your golf game needs help talk to someone
- When you are playing at your worst and nothing seems to be changing, it comes the time to talk to an expert. Take Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Ernie Els who have all asked for help from golf guru Butch Harmon. Even if a golfer isn’t at his worst he always has a confidant in his caddy; someone to talk to about what he is thinking and help him out.
- In life when things are going tough we often think we have to go it alone. When sadness hits us we tend to tell no one, just hoping that it will work itself out, but sometimes it doesn’t. This can provide a perfect opportunity to slip into a deeper depression. Life isn’t easy, but there are trained professionals who can always help.
- No one is as good as they say they are.
- If you have ever sat in the club house after a round of golf you will hear countless stories of amazing achievements deserving of ESPN top ten highlights. “It was raining sideways and I hit my ball out of the rough around three trees, over a lake, and past 3 sand traps to land 2 inches from the hole. True Story.”
- In life this is the equivalent of Facebook, Instagram, and snapchat. On social media we post only the great things in our lives. We see the wedding engagements but never the failed relationships. We see the smiling faces scroll across our feed and never the frowns. When we start to compare our lives to the perfectly-crafted personas we see on social media we stop striving to live our own lives.
- Every round of golf is against yourself.
- At the end of the day golf is a thrilling sport because you are always playing yourself. With each round, you are competing against your own handicap. Any great golfer will tell you that you should never look at the leader board. The moment you start playing based on someone else’s score is when you start to play your worst.
- With social media being inescapable it can be easy to get caught up in the success of those around us. We start to live life for the approval of others. Achievements no longer have meaning unless they get 100 likes. I used to have elaborate snap chat stories of my adventures in college until one day I realized that by being fixated on someone else’s impression of my personal experience I was actually missing out on my story. Put down your phones and enjoy the ride.
Finally, open your eyes, it’s a great day for a round of golf. And even if it isn’t, there’s always tomorrow.
Will Maher, Field Executive
This is the Part II of a three-part series on Music, Mental Health, and Masculinity. Be sure to check back to read parts I and III.
When I was about 14 I had a conversation with my uncle, who makes a living playing music. He asked what I listened to these days, and I told him Metal and Hardcore. Quickly, my uncle asked about a few bands, to which I replied “No I don’t like those emo bands.”
Uncle: What’s wrong with Emo bands?
Me: They just complain and are annoying.
Uncle: Isn’t Emo short for emotional?
Me: Yeah I think so…?
Uncle: Isn’t Metal and hardcore emotional?
Me: Well yeah, but it’s different…
Uncle: I don’t know; it sounds like you listen to Emo music.
I was struck by this and halfheartedly admitted to myself that he had a valid point. Of course, I shrugged it off in the moment to defend my view; citing the musicianship and lyrical content of Emo music as supporting factors in my disregard for the genre.
Where did the disregard for an entire scene of music come from? It came from my view of masculinity through the lens of a teenager.
After my going to my first concert in 7th grade (Slipknot, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and Trivium), my friends and I became obsessed with heavier music. The energy and passion we witnessed at the show was unlike anything we had experienced. Enormous mosh pits, screaming along to songs, head banging, fans jumping fences to get into the pit, shoes being lit on fire and thrown; it was an adrenaline fueled sea of chaos and we loved it. Perhaps if it was any other concert, we would have been set down a different path, but that day our choice had been made. We wanted more.
Naturally, we turned to YouTube to watch other Metal concerts to discover new bands. I couldn’t say when, but it got to a point where what we were listening to “wasn’t heavy enough.” We were building a tolerance for Metal and needed something stronger.
Soon we were discovering bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, Animosity, Despised Icon, Carnifex, Through The Eyes of the Dead, The Red Chord, and the list goes on. It almost became some unwritten law that if the band did any clean vocals (singing) they sucked, and Emo bands being at the forefront of this “suckage.”
We could literally pull up a band’s page and write them off simply from the 3 genre descriptions that were listed. I had come to understand and buy into the idea that listening to Emo music somehow made you weaker, or a lesser fan. I would see shirts at concerts that said “Defend Metal, Kill Emo Kids”. Metal, right?
The irony was most Metal bands preached the same kind of acceptance and understanding their Emo contemporaries did, just in a different way. It was all a means to the same end. An outlet to seek refuge from life’s turmoil, and your own insecurities. I didn’t realize it, but I was using heavy music to escape from my issues while feeling safe behind a veil of masculinity.
I love Death Metal. I still listen to it every day. I’m actually listening to Whitechapel right now. My point however is that it was easier to wear the patch of Metal with confidence, because I felt protected by what I considered to be its inherit “toughness”. I knew Emo music was the butt of many jokes, simply because they were outwardly emotional and vulnerable about very real subjects, but unfortunately, I fed into that.
Believe it or not, Metal, is equally open and emotional on similar subjects, but people have this hesitation and fear of the genre, and for whatever reason, I loved being a part of that. I felt stronger, more protected and more of a man because of the music I listened to. It was a vicious cycle, fueling both my affinity for Metal and disdain for Emo music.
During my fall into the Death Metal abyss, I caught wind of bands like Stick to Your Guns, The Ghost Inside, Have Heart, and Guns Up. These groups embodied more of Hardcore style of punk mixed with some Metal motifs and an attitude reminiscent of the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) punk bands from the 1980’s. Not only did they preach an understanding of mental and emotional issues, but they addressed a wide range of topics like drug and alcohol abuse, racism, sexism, masculinity, and family struggles.
These bands had a defining role in my life. They helped me shatter my ignorance towards music, myself, and my identity. They question the stereotype of what it meant to be a man and opened my eyes to the fact that what you wear, what you look like, who you know, and what music you listen to has nothing to do with your ability to be a good person. I found a strength in this. I found acceptance. It wasn’t just an acceptance of the music I had previously written off, but it was an acceptance of myself, my problems, and who I was. It was an acceptance of it being okay to cry, scream, and hate the world. With them, it was okay not to ALWAYS be okay and they worked to offer solutions through their music, to light a path towards getting through these problems.
Sacred Purpose does the same thing for me. Living my life through our shared sacred purpose lets me know my brothers are there, just like music, to help me through. Shattering the idea of what it means to be a man and what it means to hold myself and others accountable is something I didn’t think music could do. Re-framing masculinity and mental health, as a ton of our chapters are doing is a good thing, and is a conversation worth having. I am proud to be a member of an organization that values health and safety just as much as it values brotherhood.
“A poor man’s poor sport we’ve fallen short of reasoning/Sex does not determine capability /But we let our hostility be our guide to decide /What’s right for a girl and for a guy/Because every sex is just as able to keep this foundation stable /Enough is enough speak up its tough but don’t think that your unable/Let acceptance be our key to unlock our integrity /From there we’ll be able to see that there’s more than just she and he”— “A Poor Man’s Poor Sport” by Stick to Your Guns
Kris Taibl, Director of Communications
This is the Part I of a three-part series on Music, Mental Health, and Masculinity. Be sure to check back to read parts II and III.
The Center for Addiction and Mental Health released a study which shows 70% of mental health problems have their onset during adolescence. While the true realization of my own depression and anxiety came pretty late into my adolescence, I exhibited symptoms (which went unchecked) from as early as 14.
When I was younger, toxic relationships, break-ups, unrequited love, familial pressure, and the deaths of close friends and family all took their toll on my developing brain. During this time a genre of music crept into daily listening and I was in complete and absolute wonderment. Lyrics that spoke about being scared, not knowing who you are, being dumped, feeling directionless, absolute despair, love, hate, and so many things in between became the soundtrack to my life.
I’ve been listening to a lot of that music lately. Daily plays on my Apple Music are filled with artists and lyrics that resonated with me as a teenager but not necessarily with me today. This has brought to light some really interesting revelations about who I was back then and how I became the person I am today. The music carries memories of heartbreak, not fitting in, depression, social anxiety, frustration; all of which, the anxious person in me would like to push back down as far as possible and keep moving forward, but that is not who I am anymore.
Emo (short for emotional) music is described as a style of post-hardcore music characterized by expressive, often confessional, lyrics. Having roots in the hardcore-punk rock scene of Washington D.C. as far back as the 1980’s, emo musings have been a part of our musical zeitgeist for quite some time, even if we didn’t know it.
This type of music gave life to my thoughts and resonated with me in ways I wasn’t really sure how to express back then. Going to shows, perusing Tumblr, and deep diving into my own thoughts became outlets for me. Driving around in circles with my iPod on shuffle, thinking/singing/screaming, gave me a release. I was able to connect with artist on a level I never knew possible. Lyrics seemed to be ripped out of the headlines of my life and were there for me to ingest and unpack.
I was your stereotypical emo kid. I wore black band t-shirts, high top Chuck Taylors with socio-political messages sharpied on the soles, and a studded belt from time to time. My hair was long in the front and swept to the side with one year, a chunk of it dyed blonde because I was feeling adventurous. I fit into a mold, along with thousands of other kids, when I thought there wasn’t one. A community came out of this genre of music but something much bigger was burgeoning.
Bands like Taking Back Sunday, Bright Eyes, Saves The Day, Brand New, Alkaline Trio and My Chemical Romance all shed light on the dark that some days consumed my thoughts. Songs like “Freakish” by Saves The Day exacerbated my heartbreak after being dumped. “Radio” by Alkaline Trio allowed for catharsis after a more insidious break-up. “There’s No I in Team” by Taking Back Sunday was the anthem I latched onto when a friendship crumbled. “Guernica” by Brand New helped me navigate my own emotions when a family member lost his battle to cancer. “Sonny” by New Found Glory helped the tears flow when they really needed to after tragically losing a friend in a car accident.
I have come to the realization it was the music is that got me to a place where I could feel comfortable and could treat my wounds, visible or not. That is the terrible thing about the shame surrounding mental illness. Walk up to your friends with a puncture wound and they can see it; its tangible. You can’t do the same with mental illness. You feel things, often horrible things, but outwardly there are no puncture wounds to show.
Emo music was often dismissed by mainstream critics and their sub-genre peer groups because of its distinct connection with mental health. During a time of great stigma towards mental health in general, this genre did more for encouraging awareness and empathy towards mental health among young people than any other genre.
In 2011, Dr. Rosemary L. Hill challenged the discourse of mental illness around emo music. “fans discuss the music…enabling them to cope with pre-existing depressions, to overcome bullying and even to save their lives.” Hill writes. “I think emo probably has helped make talking about mental ill health easier for some groups.” “There has been a broader shift towards more openness and less stigma over the last few years.” She says, “bands like My Chemical Romance definitely helped some fans negotiate their mental ill health…their lyrical messages were about living and learning to live with mental ill health, to find ways to cope and gain support.”
I used music as a means to cope with feelings I didn’t fully understand and for that I am thankful for my time as an emo kid. Emo music, while a sub-genre of a sub-genre which can be traced back to American Punk Rock, pushed lyrics about mental health and mental illness to the forefront and allowed an entire generation of music listeners to take a look in the mirror and really confront their feelings. Looking back now, music was my treatment before psychotherapy became my therapy.
My musical tastes have changed since then, but the words and melodies still ignite feelings within me every time I hear them. Being 10 plus years removed from the “scene” I can still remember every word and every place I was when I first heard a particular song. Something I find encouraging is how this genre ushered in the idea of wearing your heart on your sleeve and how it’s okay to not feel okay. I listen to music now that resonates with where I am as an adult but you can catch me in my car shouting at the top of my lungs songs lamenting my teenage angst but fully understanding now why I gravitated toward it in the first place.
“We understand, little by little, that the more time we give ourselves we do have the power to control what we’re thinking and when I’m the lowest I’ve ever felt I know that I can put on music and wait through that hell. I know I’m going to feel different, if not the next day then the day after that.”- Bert McCracken, The Used
Summer-The warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August. What student doesn’t love this season? It’s when the rigors
of classwork slow down. It’s that time of year where you don’t have to peel off multiple layers as soon as you walk into a building. Finally, after months, you are able to escape the rattling indoor heat to indulge in the sights and smells of the great outdoors. Most students see this as a time to kick back and do, literally, nothing. Why not instead, take advantage of the opportunities available to you during this break?
Here are some tips to help make the most of your summer.
Get a job/internship
Are your dues owed by the time everyone gets back for fall semester? Planning on a spring break trip next year? What about formal? These things all require a good amount of money, but if you start working and saving over summer, it’ll be much easier to manage. The scope of jobs and internships available for college students is vast, but they all can help you plan for a great year, while at the same time provide you with real world work experience. The great part about this is that you are choosing it. If you get an offer for an internship that you aren’t excited about, look around for another opportunity. Summer offers something we normally don’t have an excess of: time. Regardless of the path you take with a summer job or internship, the experience could provide opportunity for full-time employment after you graduate. At a minimum, you’ll meet new people and expand your network.
Take a class
A lot of majors have that one required class that nearly everyone seems to struggle with (organic chem. FTW). Taking it during the summer is a great chance to earn a better grade. You have the opportunity to take one class at a time and won’t have other coursework to distract you. Yes, having class during the summer is not ideal having fun, however ask yourself: Do I really want to take this class along with a full course load? Equally, it could also be a chance to take a class that interests you, but you haven’t been able to fit into your regular course load. Just because you’re a molecular biology major doesn’t mean you should bar yourself from taking a stab at that sculpture or piano class. Don’t be scared to try something new.
Establish a workout routine
Summer is a great time to start a workout schedule. Due to the nice weather gyms often offer great deals during the summer to attract more customers (I used to pay $60 for 3 months during the summer with free parking at my school’s rec center). With the warmer weather you can create a mixture of inside and outside exercise routines to keep you invigorated. Developing an effective workout schedule in the summer gives you time to build a habit and perfect it towards your needs. By the time fall semester starts up, it will be that much easier to continue and give you an outlet whenever a break from classes and studying are needed.
Make time for yourself
Whether it is reading a book on the sunny veranda or hitting the links for a round of 18, making time for your own enjoyment is essential. Summer is a great time to decompress from all the hours of studying from the past school year. It also gives you time to hang out with friends and family. Enjoy this beautiful season before reality hits, once again.
Summer never seems to be long enough (especially up in the north). Instead of spending your entire summer on a couch do something to help better yourself. Don’t worry, Netflix will still be there once the cold weather hits again.
Nick Hoke, Field Executive