Earlier in his life, JuVan Langford played basketball professionally; he was an athlete of the highest order. Today, he still considers himself an athlete, not so much of sports, but more so of life; a coach of men as he describes it. Having endured his own struggles with depression, he understands the pain and the difficulty that many men go through on a daily basis. When you’ve seen these issues occur, and even personally battled them, it’s difficult to not take a stand. Today, known as the Global Voice of Men’s Empowerment, JuVan is the Founder and CEO of the MENtour, the educational workshops that help men to heal their pasts and work on their future.
Men’s mental health and wellbeing is an area that has for a long time been stigmatised in society. This idea that men must act a certain way, bottle up their emotions, and just deal with pain because that’s what men do, is one that JuVan strongly opposes. Instead, he provides the tools for all men to be listened to, to be guided, and to be given a sense of community.
(men are) being asked to show up in a relationship and show up in the office and show up for their families, but no one is showing up for them.” said JuVan Langford, Founder and CEO of the MENtour.
What made you start the MENtour?
Well I’ve spent most of my life being deeply hurt by men, and I felt I was in this journey of healing myself. There were so many other men I discovered who were also on that journey; on that pursuit of finding inner peace and it occurred to me, maybe I’m the guy that is going to create the platforms. Maybe I’m the guy who goes first; who’s the voice, who’s the face, who is the reason why men are willing to make those changes within themselves.
Do you think more athletes should speak up about these issues?
I think athletes are often used as pawns to drive messages. I think of myself as an athlete of life as a coach of men, today. I feel like what’s really important is that we create platforms where all men are celebrated, no matter what their walk of life is, no matter whether they’re straight, gay white, black; whatever their race, creed or religion is. I really feel that that’s what our focus is; it’s to really create a global brotherhood, the Mentour. Where men of all walks can find a purpose that drives them and we can come together collectively to make any conscious change in the world.
Seeing someone like you, someone so inspirational having dealt with these kind of issues yourself, maybe some men can can look at your case and think well if someone so big and so successful can feel these kind of things, then surely I can as well and surely everyone else can so maybe it can bring light to these kind of concerns.
Earlier this year, you actually participated in one of Yogi Labs’ vlogs titled “Why men are suffering”. Do you think you could talk us through that, maybe why you think men are suffering.
I do, I think men are suffering because they’re devoid of community. Community is a place where men are reminded who they are and I feel that there are so many men, including myself, who have fathered themselves and there are just prices that men pay for doing so, which is why the message of the MENtour is so important; really giving men opportunities to be listened to, to be seen, to be heard. When men are not, when they don’t experience those things within the community, they end up like a lot of the men here in Australia who are essentially dying to live, right?
It’s extremely clear that there is a huge amount of stigma attached to men expressing their own concerns with depression and anxiety but why do you think that is the case?
Yeah, I think there’s a heavy emphasis on toxicity amongst men who have, emphasis obviously here in Australia’s specifically on suicide rates and on depression, I think the issue, the disconnect here, is that we are telling men what they need instead of listening. When you generously listen, you gradually receive. I feel if more platforms had products, had services, had platforms where men were being listened to, maybe we would have a different result, we would have a very different community, society and world. When you listen to men, you get answers. We ask them questions and you get more questions. I feel like if men were being listened to, and they were able to communicate their deeper truth and they were able to communicate their experiences, that in most times are not so healthy, then they would be in a space where they could actually have some awareness as to what’s not working for them for themselves, so I think that’s a really big issue.
How do you think men can battle this masculinity barrier on a daily basis?
Well, if you kind of look at any man in society you see a few things; the most prominent is a) A will to not be seen as anything other than what everybody needs them to be. And, they’re playing to the beat of everybody else’s drum; they’re not living their own vision, they’re not working their own jobs, they’re not leading the lives that they desire to live; they’re doing it for everybody else and they’re being asked to show up in relationship and show up in the office and show up for their families, but no one is showing up for them. I feel that truth is an equaliser.
I’d say what men can do on a daily basis is be extremely honest about what’s working on and what’s not working for them, and not delaying and denying. A lot of men lie to themselves and I was one of those men, and we lie because the consequences are delayed; they’re not immediate enough. So we find men who are community suicide, and it doesn’t happen overnight, this is a long journey, a long road to get there. It’s delayed and denied by men being dishonest with themselves and those around us so I think honestly, exquisite honesty would be my response.
So it’s kind of ignorance is bliss.
Exactly. I would say, when you get through school you are given homework, and you do homework, you bring it in so that you can understand the material. I think men need to do their homework, their homework being their own bodies by the heart, so they can go out and play. When you do your homework, you can go and play. A lot of men are not playing at the level, not playing at their highest capacities personally or professionally because they’re not doing their homework.
So in your case, you could you can kind of use your career as a metaphor for life in in that sense.
Why in your opinion do you think manifest Sydney helps to break this masculinity barrier?
We are bringing a new kind of naked, is how I would describe it. We’re letting men bear it all in the space, and not just men because there were women at the experience, which is so important, a part of the conversation because we come from mothers, we have sisters and many of us are raised by our grandmother. Women need to be part of the conversation, but it’s about men, women, humans; all the men that are involved in this movement and the naked I’m referring to is conversations. Conversations are healing. Conversations open up a world of healing for men, and when we don’t converse about them and we hold on to things they grow legs, and men have learned so well to see in the dark; they operate in the dark. I feel that if we can change the methodology on how we navigate men, we can shift and elevate the morality of men
So it all starts with actually addressing the issue?
Yeah, in my experience, in short, my experience honestly in Australia is something I call substitute leadership. In school in America when the teacher gets sick a substitute leader comes in and our sons be teacher comes in, and they sit back in the class they pass the assignment it’s not their class, we don’t take full ownership of it. It’s because men are not taking full ownership of their shame, ownership of their guilt. What is clear is that men who are challenged by shame it makes them behave in dishonourable ways, and that’s why men are hurting, that’s why men are suffering in silence because eventually you get to the end of your own self. A lot of men are making it there sooner or later, and that’s why this is a cultural catastrophe that MENtour manifests in all of our event experiences are committed to putting an end to it.
Is there a message you’d like to give or some of your upcoming events that you’d like to promote?
Absolutely. The MENtour website launches in December, the second of December, and it’s going to launch a whole list of incredible things, one being our annual symposium coming up in 2020. We’re gonna have quarterly leadership retreats, have monthly activations and community building experiences. All that will go live on the website and we’re really excited about that.
You can visit JuVan’s website here for more information.