Updated: Mar 1, 2020
By: Logan Cohen, Professional Therapist & Online Life Coach
I have known my whole life that I wanted to be a Professional Therapist, but I did not think I would be creating an online life coaching platform with the intent of confronting the Male Suicide Epidemic head on. Honestly, I didn’t even consider it directly until a recent trip with my Family when I got news that yet another childhood friend from my youth was discovered dead from a drug overdose.
He had just turned 30 years old. This would make my recently deceased friend one of over 10 friends from my childhood who have died a “death of despair”.
This story is all too common in the United States today. The rates of suicide and alcohol/drug related deaths among America’s Young Adults - otherwise referred to as “death of despair” - have skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, these rates hit all time highs in 2017 since the CDC even began gathering data on this specific category a few decades ago - and especially among the demographic groups of Youth and Men who are in their prime.
The rates of suicide and drug/alcohol related deaths spiked so significantly that they actually drove the average age of mortality down to 78.6 years old in 2017. As a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach, I have seen this trend myself through the years in my professional work in mental health settings. It is my hope that an online life coaching program specifically can be just what many of my Brothers out there need when it comes to privacy and ease of access in those times where every little bit counts. Regardless, suicide is not the answer.
Let me tell you a bit about why I believe that online life coaching can provide the missing link for many Men. This allows Men who have previously avoided going to see a healthcare professional in person. Now Men can do SOMETHING to improve their state of mental and health where and when they can – and on their terms.
While I have known conceptually that I wanted to do this work as a professional since I was a child (read more about other stories on the webpage for my group counseling practice here), I really fell in love with counseling psychology as a wilderness counselor – working with at-risk youth in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It was there – in my first extended sobriety since early adolescence – that I truly learned to appreciate the Journey a Professional Counselor gets to take with a committed and willing client.
Those Youth hit the end of their line – or their proverbial “rock bottom”. They were being discharged from inpatient psychiatric hospital settings or stepping down from Youth Detention Centers – and needed a fresh perspective to either figure it out, or pursue a lifetime of criminal behavior and/or unstable mental health. Statistically, the odds were already stacked against them before they even reached legal adulthood.
Roughly half of those Youth aged 11-17 would continue to re-offend as they grew up – spending time in and out of jail intermittently until they become “institutionalized”, or otherwise unable to function outside of the industrial prison complex - and eventually spend the rest of their lives in prison. Another quarter of those Youth would make it out and end up being productive members of our society.
In fact, these Youth were usually identified early on as generally well-meaning Kids who just got out of control for whatever environmental reason – low supervision, trauma, history, and/or mental health issues that the Youth had to learn to manage day-to-day. Not surprisingly, once there were reasonable behavior expectations in place and the Youth felt like the environment was predictable and safe, oftentimes they would blossom into these totally amazing and self-sufficient Young People.
Needless to say, these types of People (whether adolescents or full-grown Adults) make FANTASTIC employees - they are loyal, hard-working, and honest, and tend to exhibit consistent follow through.
The other 25% of those Youth would not live past 25 years of age. Many of these numbers would be made up of gang-involved Youth who were (somewhat) consciously entering into a life committed to making a living in organized crime and the associated risk. There were many other Youth (with of course much overlap in between) who learned Violence quite honestly – from their primary experiences with People who were supposed to be looking out for them.
The 25% of these Youth who ended up dying before the age of 25 years old did not all end their own Lives insofar as the traditional definition of completed suicide. With this being said, the deceased can be considered victims of the increasingly present “death by despair”. These are all acts of literal “desperation” - made to make a quick dollar and soothe the hunger pains of Loved Ones, self-medicate emotional/physical pain, and/or end the pain associated with surviving daily Life altogether.
While I personally did not get in as much trouble or have as much exposure to violence as the Youth I worked with as a young Professional, a part of me identified with the angry nature in them. As a Young Man with a learning disorder who grew up in a Family ridden with psychiatric illness and addiction, I could appreciate their distrust of “the powers that be” and shared their disdain for traditional academics. I also saw that like those Youth, I was also on a Journey of personal development. Many of them were getting their first shot at a sober life in a long time as I was, however they were also coming of age into their adulthood – just like I was coming of age as a Professional.
There were many working professionals in my position who tried to do this work and could not withstand the emotional or physical intensity. They would either be young and have energy, but be undisciplined and sloppy with their boundaries. Or, the counselors would be too soft and unable to follow through consistently with correcting problematic behavior until chaos slowly but surely developed. There were even the of counselors that would revert to bribing the Youth with cigarettes, engaging in power struggles, or otherwise encouraging inappropriate behavior themselves when under pressure – playing the role of yet another Adult who is part of “the problem”. There was even one counselor who had ONE SHIFT - 5 days 24/7, followed by 2 consecutive days of time off. She got off of work early after the 5th night of her shift and by the time we got to our “time off house”, there was nothing left of her or her belongings except for one pair of hiking shoes in the middle of her bare room – caked in mud, by hardly worn.
As a 22 year old Young Adult, I myself had a few friends in adolescence who got in trouble (probably more than) one too many times and were themselves shipped off to a therapeutic boarding facility or wilderness camp. This added element made the professional work interesting, so you could say. There were even a few Youth who either reminded me of myself or a dear personal Friend – and I allowed myself to develop as close to a personal friendship as One can ethically have in setting like that.
In fact, one young Person even tracked me down after the death of his Father. He wanted to tell me about this experience of loss, how much I meant to him, and that he was going to become the Father to a Son soon who would be named after ME.
Now I also have a Family of my own as a Father and a Husband. In addition, I have played “pseudo-Parent” and “raised” thousands of Young People in my Professional Work with Men & Boys who are working – fighting - to survive the daily Battles inherent to finding our way as a Man.
And now, I am on a personal trip with some of my dearest Family Members – THOUSANDS of miles from Home or my Office where I can do anything to help – and I hear that yet another one of my Friends has died from a drug overdose.
I did lot of thinking on that trip – as one does when they can get some perspective from their Lives with literal geographic space, but this was different. I had become a Professional Therapist and started a successful group counseling practice in Charlotte, NC, yet still – almost 15 years after I started practicing as a Mental Health Professional, some of my closet childhood friends are still dying “deaths of despair”.
I have realized as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach that this is far from an isolated experience conveyed by some weird Therapist Guy who is has dealt with their own Mental Health and Substance Abuse issues. Men are struggling with the trappings of traditional manhood – especially toughness and independence – on dangerous, even fatal levels. If left unchecked, these socially prescribed expectations around what it means to “Be a Man” insofar as toughness and independence can get us Men killed - literally by our own hands.
These expectations associated with traditional manhood set us Men up to refrain from asking for help from Others at risk of appearing dependent, instead preferring to alleviate situations on our own. Now more than ever, alcohol and drugs are accessible and not surprisingly, are oftentimes a preferred method of coping with difficult life circumstances by many Men.
By using alcohol and/or drugs to self-medicate, us Men can convince ourselves that we can effectively manage our emotional difficulties effectively on our own. While the acute numbing of pain or discomfort associated with alcohol or drug use is often effective in the short-term, it actually adds to the chaos and eventual pain in the long-term.
Just like the act of ending One’s own Life, the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with daily Life stress is a sure way to set yourself up for imbalance and eventual failure – or even death. And in addition to suicide, death at the hands of drugs makes up the rapidly rising demographic of us Men who are now dying “deaths of despair” at our physical prime and at unprecedented rates.
The Balanced Man Plan is designed by a Male Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach to combat the male suicide epidemic directly. There is no reason that we should be dying in droves at our own hands by treatable illnesses, such as Depression, Anxiety and Addiction.
There is no reason Men in this day and age should be dying at current rates from illnesses that are 100% preventable and treatable – and no less because the existing stigma of mental health treatment incorrectly tells us this is a sign of weakness.
I have found that for many Men - when they finally get the nerve up to go talk to a medical professional about their issues, discover additional barriers when they get to a medical practitioner’s office. Medical Science is trained to recognize symptoms of Depression as “sadness, melancholy, or numbness”. While this is oftentimes the case with Women (diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety 40% more often than Men), us Men are not socialized to express ourselves in this way because again, it looks and feels WEAK.
With this being said, we are allowed to venture into the emotional experience of ANGER.
Due to these social and culture expectations for our emotional experiences and behavior, us Men often present to a medical professional as gruff or abrasive – even downright mean. We don’t even know how to tell the professional about our experiences with Depression, if we even know to describe those symptoms at all. Again, these alarming rates of death by despair and the associated suicides become increasingly clear.
I could not stand by and see any more of my Brothers take their own Lives by immediate violence or a slow, self-tortuous death by Addiction that started out as a means to cope via self-medication. I have dedicated my Life to the study of Counseling Psychology as a Professional Therapist, yet more Men every day, even my personal Friends and Loved Ones, are still dying.
I have worked in residential inpatient facilities, rehab clinics, suicide prevention hotlines, and run large mental health companies owned by private investors. I started my own group counseling practice in Charlotte, NC, but saw it was time to create a more accessible and private solution for Men who are struggling privately with their emotional health as an online life coach.
I created the Balanced Man Plan as on Online Life Coaching Platform for Men who experience barriers to presenting in person to a healthcare professional, or would otherwise prefer to access resources from the comfort and privacy of Home. I know all too well how hard it can be out there.
It's scary to imagine what could happen, or even just to imagine how uncomfortable it could be to “find the right words” to describe what we are going through, I want to make sure you have a place where helpful resources are available and easy to access as an online life coach.
In addition to the mission of the Balanced Man Plan to do our part in suicide prevention, we are also going to literally put our money where our mouth is. 20% of all proceeds from The Balanced Man Plan will be donated directly to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention – so you’re investment in your own Health and Well-Being through Balance will continue to “pay it forward” for People who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and behavior, as well as with therapeutic services for the survivors left behind after suicide.
My name is Logan Cohen and I am a Professional Therapist & Life Coach with over 10 years in the field of Counseling Psychology. I am a Clinical Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, as well as the founder of New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC in Charlotte, NC. After spending tens of thousands of clinical hours with my own clients, starting a successful group practice, as well as a beautiful Family, I “picked my head up from the grindstone” to check in on childhood Friends & Loved Ones.
I painfully discovered that more than a few of my childhood Friends passed away at a young age from preventable health conditions and decided that as a Man, Husband, Father, and Friend, I could no longer stand by as People suffered in silence and self-destructed rather than ask for help. It doesn’t have to be like that and the holistic healing methods offered by the Balanced Man Plan is designed to help People “get unstuck” and break free from old patterns that are the barriers between Self & quality of Life.
The Balanced Man Plan is a therapeutic digital experience delivered through Self-Guided Coaching Plans created by a Male Therapist with the common barriers & strengths of Men in mind. The Balanced Man Plan has the goal of introducing a natural Balance back to Life so it is sustainable for the optimal Health & Well-Being of Self and Loved Ones - and ALL from the privacy and comfort of Home. If you have enjoyed what you see so far, check out our Self Guided Coaching Plans!