An Innocent Misuse of Psychology Leading to Rising Male Suicides
Have you or anyone you know ever suffered from suicidal tendencies? Do you know men who have taken their own lives? It turns out it’s very common and rising each year, which is a problem that’s not been getting the attention it merits.
Personally I’ve lost a close friend and family member to suicide. I’ve spoken with numerous men who’ve pondered the idea and I’ve thought about throwing in the towel on a few occasions. If I’d believed my life was a fraction worse, maybe I’d have followed the idea through to it’s climax.
Men’s Suicide Rates 4 Times Higher Than Women’s
However my experiences are just the tip of the iceberg, males suicide rates in the west are between 3 and 7 times higher than women and rising.
In 1981, in the UK 2,466 women took their own lives. Three decades later in 2012, thanks in part to improvements in suicide prevention and intervention initiatives and perhaps a shift in personal empowerment, the number had almost halved to 1,391. Yet despite these improvements in the same period, the number of men who killed themselves rose from 4,129 to 4,590 (12% rise).
Shockingly male suicide in the UK is now the biggest killer of men under the age of 50. It is the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, representing 24% of all deaths in 2013. A hundred men die unnecessarily each week and many more family members are left to deal with the tragedy.
The same is true for many other countries. Men’s suicide rates in the Australia are 3 times that of women and nearly 4 times in the US. 79% of all suicides in the US are men. In the last 30 years the lives of millions of friends, fathers, sons, and brothers have been unnecessarily lost. Normal guys like you and me, who lose their way in the game of life.
Of course there are men with complex mental health needs, but the root of the problem for the majority of men is the deep belief in the depressing idea that they’re not enough of a man to cope or get what he wants out of life. When you accept ideas like this as the truth, no wonder it feels like there’s no other way.
The sadness can get compounded by the masculine ideals society has about men being strong husbands, protectors and providers. The problem is men’s lives don’t always concur with these ideals about who a man should be, but this doesn’t stop some men placing a lot of expectations on themselves, potentially leaving those who fall short believing they’ve failed as a man.
And of course, if we believe this, we can’t tell anyone we’re feeling depressed. Men compared to women, have a tendency to suffer in silence. The macho conditioning to “man up” means we’re reluctant to seek support, often preferring to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to quieten the internal battle we have with ourselves, which only adds to the problem.
I’ve been there, struggling alone. The deep hole of sadness I seemed to be falling into felt like it was becoming all consuming, but the last thing I wanted was for people to know I was sinking. The male ego doesn’t want people to know it’s feeling weak, which is one of the reasons vulnerability is scarce among men.
There are few places men can openly talk about their issues, which is a problem because being willing to admit we’re finding things hard, is part of the way to getting out. If more support was openly available, I’m sure more men would reach out and avoid getting to the point where they believe there’s no other way to solve their problem(s) than to kill themselves.
The Travesty of Male Suicide
The sad thing is that the only thing getting in their way, is an innocent misuse of their psychology. Even if a man is diagnosed with a ‘genetic’ condition such as bipolar, it doesn’t mean that his way of thinking about life is inevitable or unchangeable.
Prescription rates of antidepressants are up five fold since 1991. Some men will never make it to a doctor, but for those that do, medication ‘might’ help in the short term, but in isolation it only ever attempts to nullify the symptom – the feeling of hopelessness.
What’s really needed for men with suicidal tendencies is to help them see that what’s really going on, so that they can take responsibility, rather than get palmed off with drugs which numb the experience of life. Some men might need the help of antidepressants, but beating depression requires a man to wake up to the joy of life, to see it as a gift, not have the experience watered down with chemicals.
It can appear like the cause of a man’s depression are his circumstances. His level of debt, his wife leaving him, loss of a job but in reality that’s not true. Circumstances are arbitrary, what makes them seem like they’re unbearable is the meaning you give to these events that in turn creates your experience of them.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
You will here me say this over and over again, we are always living in the feeling of our thinking. Most men are able on move through difficult times without thinking they need to kill themselves. Whilst for others it’s during these times that they lose their bearings, by getting caught up in a spiral of thinking that can lead to some men thinking the only solution is to kill themselves.
Problems are subjective based on a man’s level of consciousness, when the minds calm, human beings are optimal problem solvers, we do this by taking one small step at a time. But this is difficult if the story a man creates about where he finds himself is one of impossibility.
This is how the human experience works – we create the context for our lives via the meaning we give to what shows up good, bad or indifferent. The more we’re able to simply be present with what is, without adding fearful and insecure thinking to the experience, the greater peace will prevail. The easier our problems will be to navigate.
Problems exist and life can be tough. “Life is a contact sport” as Syd Banks says. That goes without saying. When it feels like the shits hit the fan, it’s hard to see life with a greater perspective. This is when we’re prone to take our thinking so seriously it feels so real, but in reality we can’t trust our thinking anymore than we can the weather.
A man who’s lost his bearings and feels like life’s not worth living anymore, may find the truth hard to accept, however it could offer a glimmer of light, which might be all he needs to choose to turn away from darkness and start walking towards the light.
Yet the fact is the human body is designed for peace and happiness. It has evolved for 4 million years to thrive in the world we call ‘reality’. It is only when we start messing with the internal mechanism, by adding too much thinking to the moment, that life can seem harder than it is.
Our bodies thrive when we’re happy. It creates endorphin’s, letting us know our thinking about life is in good shape. At every step of the way our biological system offers us feedback telling us if we’re in or out of synch with our natural state of peace.
The human spirit is strong, strength is always there even when things seem helpless. The power cable is always plugged in. If it weren’t for misguided thinking blocking the current, we’d be feeling the joy of life rushing through our bodies, lighting us up like fireflies each and every step of the way.
So if you or someone you know is struggling ask for help. As one of my mentors says “if you are alive you need help”. It takes courage, but we can’t do life on our own and the irony is, it’s rarely as ever as bad as you think, no matter what you’ve been going through.
If you enjoyed this subscribe to The Inspired Man´s newsletter for the best ideas on creating greater health, confidence and success in all areas of your life