From the way they’re built to the way they cope with stress and anxiety, men and women are different. Six years ago this month the Violence Initiative launched an effort to reach out and help men in their stressful moments by creating The Men’s Line. In late June of this year it logged its 3000th call.
“When we all got together to talk about this idea six years ago we knew there was no shortage of male stress issues to deal with,” says Donald Gault of the Initiative for Violence-Free Families in Ramsey County, “but none of us [could predict] if this would work, if men would actually call. Men can be pretty stoic and our culture teaches men to ‘tough it out,’ but we are thrilled that six years later The Men’s Line is [exceeding] our expectations. We know we’ve made a difference for men who’ve called on the service and will continue to do so as our reputation grows.”
The Ramsey and Hennepin Initiatives work together in a number of areas, including the Men’s Messages Action Team and the Line, which is, to the best of our knowledge, the only resource of its kind in the United States. It’s a free service, a phone line for men answered by trained counselors at the Crisis Connection, the Twin Cities’ primary 24-hour crisis line/resource.
Modeled after pioneering work done in the 1980s and ‘90s by Dale Hurst and Associates in Melbourne, Australia, the Line was designed to give men a resource to break isolation and address issues of stress, anger and depression.
An assessment of The Men’s Line, completed in February of 1999, broke calls into the following categories:
Men who are depressed and need to talk and/or need resources and referrals to deal with anger, financial, legal and/or medical issues.
Men seeking advice on relationships, communication skills and dealing with their children, as well as how to deal with an abusive wife/partner or other family member.
Women calling for resources for their male partner, family member or friend.
- General information requests.
Other significant information is collected on each call, including a “lethality index,” which attempts to measure whether there is an immediate threat of physical violence. The 1999 assessment found that approximately seven were documented as indicating a “medium” level of lethality, and only two were documented as “high.”
In reviews of call records each month to the Line, as well as interviews with phone counselors, one word sums up the core issue addressed in the vast majority of the calls: isolation. The men who call in have questions and concerns, a general sense of loneliness and disconnection from family and community that the Line appears to, in part, be successfully addressing in the Twin Cities.
Because of confidentiality protections, specific stories cannot be revealed, but a number of staff in both Ramsey and Hennepin counties believe the Line has probably saved lives, or, at a minimum, helped men make choices that were not harmful to themselves or to their loved ones.
“3,000 men making the phone call is an astonishing number to me,” says Lois Gunderson of the Initiative for Violence Free Families in Hennepin County. “I believe that for each call The Men’s Line has received, there [are] another four or five men who could use our service to break their isolation. We hope to continue to give [those men] that opportunity.”
The Future of The Men’s Line
Funding has been a constant struggle since its inception in 1997. While the cost of operation is quite modest it has been difficult to secure stable, ongoing funding. Over the years, The Men’s Line has been funded by a variety of community partners, including 3M, the Minnesota State Bar Foundation, Health Partners and Allina, the Minnesota Department of Health, and Ramsey and Hennepin counties. Senator Paul Wellstone was working to secure federal funding to expand The Men’s Line to be a statewide resource and national model/demonstration project at the time of his death.
For more information, contact:
Dave Verhasselt (Media Consultant): (651) 266-8017
- Donald Gault: (651) 266-2404
- Lois Gunderson: (612) 728-2094
To call The Men’s Line directly, dial: (612) 379-MENS (6367)