A counselling psychologist wants to see safe spaces where men can feel comfortable speaking about their problems. This, he said, can help men heal from childhood trauma.
Dexter De Bellotte says a multi-disciplinary approach and proper use of resources is needed to deal with issues facing men and boys across TT.
He was speaking at a panel discussion – Gender Equality with Equity: Saving our Boys, at Nalis in Port of Spain on Wednesday. The event was one in a series held in commemoration of International Men’s Day which is celebrated on November 19.
"We have a lot of men and old men who were raped and they never tell anybody. They walk around in secret.
"Men don't talk, they hardly ever talk. We don't have the opportunity or avenue to speak, and when we get the opportunity to speak we withdraw."
He said the public has to stop thinking that men with issues will speak up. He said the society must reach out to men and boys who may be struggling with trauma or abuse.
"We need to let them say what is wrong them."
He said it is urgent that TT begins to address issues affecting men from the root.
"There are males in TT who are who they are – some sitting in prison – because of childhood trauma." One thing leads to the next, he said, which is why the public needs to look at the causes since "unaddressed trauma can lead to long-term effects on the quality and length of a person’s life."
De Bellotte said the dropout rate among male students is linked to past traumatic experiences, and these interfere with their learning abilities. He blamed parents for allowing their children to struggle with trauma and eventually drop out of school.
One member of the audience said foster care can also be a factor to trauma in men. He said the system was designed to fail men, and the government continues to use the wrong diagnosis to treat with the issue.
De Bellotte said a child trauma policy can make a dent in addressing issues affecting boys. He said there is currently nothing in place to handle them. He argued that although social workers have helped and continue to help children battling with trauma, "they may not be equipped to address particular special situations faced by students.
"We need to stop waiting until they become incarcerated to start taking care of them."
Abuse of males, he said, has the ability to affect healthy relationships with friends and significant others. Men also struggle with expressing emotions and this can lead to violent actions. "We keep addressing the actions, asking 'Why you kill, why you steal, why you keep smoking marijuana?’
“We hardly ever get to the root which creates these thoughts and actions, because that requires work."