The Emotional Baggage Follow Up Series: The DIGS Model Plays Out on the Football Field and Brazil’s Capital


Perhaps we should expand the role of men to include emotional availability...

football field

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Back in the summer around Father’s Day, when several mass shootings were in the public news, I wrote some columns recommending a new model for fathers: DIGS (Dads Interested in Gun Safety). Although national data for the rest of the year is tentative, it looks like there might be a slight decrease in the shootings and gun deaths. On the other hand, on Friday a 6-year-old boy deliberately shot his teacher.

Regardless, the deeper and broader meaning of DIGS has to do with the role of men. Instead of the traditional emphasis on strength and emotional control, more ability to be vulnerable and emotionally available seems to be needed now.

In this deeper sense, the acronym DIGS can also stand for something else, perhaps Dads Into Giving Support—that is, action support and emotional support. Perhaps we have just seen a striking and unforgettable example of that in the professional football field a week ago Monday, a sport that is based on violence with vicarious spectator pleasure at the controlled aggression and victory.

Despite the new knowledge of the risks of concussions that cause brain damage, women have become more interested in playing the sport, as has occurred in boxing and other contact sports. I personally know that risk all too well, being unconscious in the hospital for a week after playing intramural football my first year at the University of Michigan.

I do not know how my teammates responded to my injury, but those players on both professional teams showed another emotional side of men after Damar Hamlin fell backwards unconscious: crying for concern and a potential loss of life rather than tears of joy at winning; kneeling to pray instead of protest; and hugging to support each other instead of high-fiving congratulations. Clearly, these rough and tough players were able to show their soft and caring side.

Whether it was the prayers and/or the expeditious expertise of the medical CPR team, Hamlin is making a major recovery so far. Moreover, the softness did not inhibit his team from playing and winning yesterday.

Contrast the good news about Damar Hamlin on Friday with the 2-year anniversary of our Capitol building insurrection. Invaded mainly by men and led by a man, this unprecedented show of inappropriate male aggression, the old macho model of maleness, was on full unrequited display. And, as if right on updated serendipitous cue, rioters in Brazil just invaded their capital.

On awakening this morning, I also read the news about the nurses strike at 2 New York hospitals. On Friday we had just updated 2 mental health related strikes. Finally, too, the Republicans in the House ended their internal conflict about who was to be their leader.

There is no surprise that there is so much emotional baggage left over from this news. The challenge is to find mentally healthier ways to resolve loss, trauma, humiliation, and conflict, and our expertise in mental health should be able to help.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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