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Let’s Get Men Talking About Suicide

Male suicide is one of the greatest problems of our time and yet one of the least talked about topics. What many don’t realise is that suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 45 in the U.K., the second leading among male 15-24-year-olds in the U.S. and one of the top causes of death worldwide. This is all despite the fact twice as many women get diagnosed with depression. Just have a little think about those facts for a few seconds. It’s not cancer, or road accidents, or some other topic the media loves to run with like global warming that is predominantly killing men; it’s suicide.

 The trouble is that “suicide” and “mental health” aren’t sexy topics that the tabloids can print on their front pages with some terrible pun of a headline to churn out copies. They want stories that sell. They want to talk about Trump’s hair or Kim Kardashian’s latest nude selfie, and all the while the male suicide rate sits quietly in the background, as big a problem as ever but overshadowed by the irrelevance that gets printed and tweeted.

But this isn’t a problem that we can simply sweep under the rug and let it be dealt with by someone else. The World Health Organisation notes that every 40 seconds someone tragically takes their life, and the male suicide rate has been on the rise over recent years. In the U.K. alone, it is now over a third higher than it was in 1990 and has seen a 15 percent increase in the US since 2005.

Despite more women suffering from depression, four times as many men are likely to take their life compared to women in the U.S. Four times. The problem is with masculinity. Men are traditionally, and archaically, seen as the “breadwinners,” the strong ones who support their family while the “stay at home mother” looks after the kids. But life just isn’t like that anymore.

While there are still issues of inequality throughout the world, we see women striving to break through the stereotypes in place by achieving great things, but we don’t see this same commitment from men to opening up.

UK suicide rates for 2014
Stats for the U.K.’s male suicide rate in 2014, source: Lynx X CALM

Very few men like to admit their feelings or emotions or show any sign of weakness. They fear that once they open up, they will be seen as less masculine. They’re thinking like the primates we once were — “who will want to marry me if I talk about my feelings?!” Does talking about depression make me a woman? Does writing about my experiences with suicide make me any less of a man? Of course not, and the people who think it does need to pull themselves out of the time warp from 600 years ago and get with the 21st century.

Suicide needs to be spoken about on two fronts. Firstly, the media. The media loves talking about the Zika Virus, or Ebola, or whatever other Walking Dead-esque disease it is that they can use to scare the population. I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but more talk about suicide could have a huge impact. This doesn’t mean giving a newspaper column to any “I was on TV once, please listen to me, please!” “celebrity” like Katie Hopkins who, despite never suffering from depression, once wrote on the topic that, “People with depression do not need a doctor and a bottle of something that rattles. They need a pair of running shoes and fresh air.” Ah damn, if only I’d stuck my head out of the window and gulped down some fresh air I could have saved myself two years of depression. Thanks, Dr Hopkins!

It’s not okay that people with a large platform like hers are allowed to comment on issues she has no understanding of, especially when these are issues people are physically taking their lives over. I can take a joke as much as the next man but come on, stick to what you know (whatever that actually is).

Secondly, we need to have a bigger conversation amongst ourselves. If you’re a woman, let the men that you are friends with know that they can be honest with you, about anything, and it won’t change your relationship. If you’re a man, start this conversation yourself. If your sole aim in life is to be a group of “top lads,” know that this is still possible by being open and emotional. Being honest about what you’re going through makes you so much more of a man than you may know because it takes real courage to stand up and say something when the chips may be stacked against you. If we start a greater conversation around suicide, do away with the stigma and let men know that it’s okay to admit how they’re really feeling, they will seek the help they desperately need.

If you’re struggling, open up to someone. Suicide and depression feed off the secrets and one conversation can kick-start your recovery in a way you would have previously thought impossible; it did with me. Talking combats the depression. Opening up about your struggles doesn’t mean you have to declare it from the rooftops, it can be as simple as having a chat with your doctor. Get the help you need.

I promise full recovery is 100 percent possible. I know because I’ve done it.

This article originally featured on The Huffington Post here.

Get in touch at [email protected], find me on my personal site here, follow me on Twitter and check out my blog on mental health issues.

10 responses on "Let's Get Men Talking About Suicide"

  1. I too know that mental health issues are conversation killers, despite the fact many have it. I too have kicked PTSD’s ass. I agree: we need this conversation, not because it’s morbid, but because once we normalize it we can begin to heal it. Which goes a long way to finding better ways. It’s why I do what I do, and I’m not waiting for science.

  2. Hi Craig. what a sad story about your friendships. Sharing painful stories will awaken pain in the listener. Not all of us can sit with pain, our own or the pain of others. There is perhaps better forums for you to share your story, here or in other online or offline groups.

    There is so many great persons in the world,
    I’m sure there is some who would just love to get to know you. I firmly believe there is support out there for all of us.

    Which country do you live in, Craig? Perhaps I could point out som resources for you from the network?

    Kindly
    David

  3. The fastest, most effective way I’ve noticed to lose friends is to talk about depression, thoughts of suicide and living with PTSD. At this time I have no friends to talk to or share my feelings of sadness…

  4. One of my best friends, a guy I grew up with since Kindergarten took his own life about 15 years ago now. He didn’t reach out for help and to this day I wish I could have done something or known more of the demons he was fighting inside that finally convinced him that there was no other way out.

    We all need to do more to speak out about mental health for both men and women, no matter what type you suffer from, we are all in this together. I use my blog to speak out about childhood sexual abuse, anxiety, PTSD, and Dissociation. We are all in this together.

    • Hey Lyric,

      Im so sorry to hear about your friend – it always breaks my heart a little when I hear a story like this. Please, please don’t blame yourself at all, you have to understand that he was not in his right mental state, and there is nothing that can have been done to change that. I came extremely close to suicide myself not so long ago and I had completely lost my mind at the time – I wasn’t thinking about the consequences, or how it might affect my family and friends, or anything like that. I didn’t know what month it was, I couldn’t even remember my own name – and this was all because of depression. My friends tell me now “I wish you had told me”, but at the time the only thing I could think about was finding an escape.

      But as you said, this is why we need to spark a bigger conversation around mental health for both men and women, no matter what the circumstances and no matter what the illness. We need to be proactive, not reactive, so that people such as myself and your friend feel that they can have that conversation, no matter what state their mind is in.

      Thanks for your reply and if you ever want to chat further please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      Thanks for your comment,
      George

    • Lyric, you wrote: “We are all in this together”. I fully agree. I’ve started this page to adress men’s situation in large, across the board and I simply love all the different perspectives offered by the members specific experiences. As so many of us knows what it feels like to be lonely, tired, afraid, uncertain, perhaps even unlovable. Well we are all lovable and we are all in this together. One love.

  5. I m not sure we need more talk about suicide but definitely more talk between men about their problems. My husbands good friend killed himself when they were 30 “out of the blue” This group of friends committed to never letting that happen again. Yet for the last 15 years I see them socialise together..at any one time at least one of them is dealing with a life crisis but they never talk about it. Stick strictly to the footie no deeper. My husband says it can feel”disloyal” talking about problems and that why the lads dont. Well they should cos us girls have no problem opening up about them.

    • Hey Noreen,

      I completely agree with you – rather than having a conversation about suicide it would be much better to have a conversation about the problems men face so that it never leads on to a conversations around suicide. Unfortunately, many men keep these problems to themselves, and then often these problems spiral into issues with suicide.

      Rather than try and spark a conversation around individual conversations, of which I may have no experience, I thought I’d write about suicide as I unfortunately have a great deal of experience in this area.

      But I do agree with you – if we can just get men talking about their problems more often, no matter how big or small, maybe we can prevent the need for a conversation around suicide ever taking place.

      Thanks for your reply,
      George

  6. My brother took his own life last July. I wish he had gotten help. We need to get talking about suicide and erase the stigma surrounding it.

    • Hey Joyce,

      Many thanks for your message and I’m so sorry to hear about your brother.

      It’s such a tough subject and I understand what he must have been going through having come so close to the edge not so long ago now myself. It’s because of my experiences with suicide that I’m so set now on changing the conversation around it and getting men talking about it. It’s great that you’re now helping to create this conversation around suicide yourself.

      If you ever need to chat through anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

      Stay strong,
      George

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