Oct 9th, 2019, 02:55 PM

AUP's First Men's Only Club

By Husam Ibrahim
Max Stiemerling, founder of AUP's Male Support & Solidarity Club, Image Credit: Husam Ibrahim
AUP Men Bond and Talk Openly About Mental Health Amongst Other Issues in a Dominantly Female Student Body

It was a small gathering at the very first 'Male Support & Solidarity Club' meeting, which was held on short notice. The evening consisted of discussions ranging from friendship, loneliness, substance abuse, consent and mental health. Many times the discussion would naturally dive back to the importance of a male support system at the American University of Paris, which they felt was lacking due to the high female to male student body ratio. 

Apart from the founder, Max Stiemerling, a junior at AUP and psychology major, only a few other men were present -some of who had just heard of the new club's meeting recently. But considering AUP's male population is below 25%, the turn out was considerable.

Stiemerling decided to establish the club in order to tackle the lack of a support system many male students desire at AUP. He came up with the idea when a male friend of his was dealing with domestic abuse from his girlfriend.

"From the outside, you would have never thought anything was going on with him, but he came out to me for help. That's when I realized how many men deal with their issues in their own heads and the lack of male support at AUP could increase that."  

Unfortunately, that is emblematic of a larger problem. Mental Health America (MHA) statistics have found that "men are significantly less likely than women to seek help for, mental health, substance abuse and stressful life events due to, [a] reluctance to speak, downplaying of symptoms and social norms."

"In this club, I'd like to help guys discuss things that may be more intimate and scarier to talk about," said Stiemerling.

The 3rd year psychology major also explained how mental health takes more effort than just going to a doctor and seeking remedies.

"Therapy is a lot more nuanced and requires a lot more engagement. You can't just treat it like a regular illness."

Men are more likely to seek support from peers and stress-relieving activities than traditional mental health methods, Image Credit: USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

Throughout the meeting, there was open communication. Participants felt comfortable enough to speak about their challenges regarding substance abuse, phases of depression and mental health all in a light-hearted yet serious manner. 

There was a clear sense of comfort and understanding in the room that might have been hard to achieve if it were not a male-oriented setting. The meeting also went beyond its scheduled time due to the interesting discussions.    

Male only clubs have a stigma associated with them, mainly due to the existence of 'Gentlemen's Clubs'. Stiemerling is aware of the stigma and the understandable concerns that come with it. He clarified, "One can seek to do good but one has to accept the bad to come with it. I anticipate there to be a lot of interactions in the club where systems of priorities, that are individually made or societally conditioned might clash with the mission of the club."

"I take it as my responsibility to sway the conversation into more constructive avenues." 

He went on to note that any toxicity will be used as a chance to bring about open dialogue in hopes of leading to reform. There's also a plan to have an inclusive dialogue with other genders at future meetings in order to share and discuss viewpoints openly.

The club plans on gathering for activities such as riding scooters, bowling and traveling outside of Paris in order to go beyond just drinking and smoking. Stiemerling is looking forward to higher occupancy for the upcoming meetings.

 The 'Male Support & Solidarity Club' meetings are currently scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 5 pm in Q-604 (Quai building).   
Update: This article has been changed to reflect that the male population of AUP is below 25% and not 20%.