Men are dying by suicide at a rate of three to four times more than women. In a 2014 UK study, the male suicide rate was 16.8 suicides per 100,000 people, versus 5.2 per 100,000 for female deaths. Of the more than 44,000 people who die by suicide every year in the United States, the significant majority (79%) of those are men. It is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45 in most developed nations.
Obviously, this is far from exclusively being a gender issue. There are many contributing factors that lead a person to consider taking their own lives: socioeconomic status, whether or not they’re employed, relationship status, the sense of community that the person has around them, and sense of purpose and alignment in their career.
This isn’t a comparison game. Any suicide is one too many. The gender gap, however, can’t be ignored.
Why Are Men More Likely To Die By Suicide?
There is an unspoken credo in the world of men: Be in control. Don’t show weakness. Don’t ask for help.
Men receive this consistent conditioning via millions of subtle messages that they receive from friends, family, and mainstream media. There is a massive cultural influence that tells men that feeling feelings is bad, asking for help is pathetic, and they should always be in control of themselves, in every way.
It’s no wonder that men a) struggle to even know when they’re depressed, because of their culturally encouraged disconnection from their own emotions, and b) struggle to ask for help if they are aware that they’re hurting, for fear of being judged or perceived as less capable or less manly.
How To Help Reduce The Male Suicide Rate
There are thousands of points that I could include in this section. Truly, every little bit of human connection helps when it comes to reducing stigma around mental health issues.
Here are five things that you can start doing, today, to chip away at this overly limiting man-box and reduce the male suicide rate in the world.
1. Feel your own feelings.
Gandhi nailed it… “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Regardless of your gender, you leaning into feeling your own emotional pain will make for a more emotionally connected world. If you feel your feelings fully and are in touch with the fullness of your own emotional spectrum, you will be that much more trustable of a person to feel feelings in front of, and you will have that much easier of a time spotting a man who is secretly hurting.
Simply put, if you ignore your own pain it will be easier for you to miss the pain of others. Conversely, if you feel your own pain you will be leading by example, and spot the suffering of others more readily.
2. Give explicit permission to men in your life to feel their feelings.
Leading by example is one thing, giving explicit permission to the men in your life to feel their feelings without judgment is another. If you have any hesitation or judgment about men being allowed to feel their feelings, then that is a bias that lives within you that should be addressed.
If you are a proponent of men being allowed to feel their feelings, then make it known. Make it known through your words and actions. Make it known through a social media post. Make it known when your male friend or romantic partner is on the verge of feeling a more difficult emotion and you can sense his hesitation.
Explicitly tell men, “It is safe to feel your feelings in front of me. It takes courage and strength to let yourself feel these things. I love and accept you completely.”
Either through a lack of emotional self-awareness, or simply being raised in a ‘Boys don’t cry‘ culture, men are often terrified of letting themselves cry, grieve, or feel sad, frustrated, or hurt. Counteract this cultural undercurrent by telling them that, yes, they are safe to feel any and all emotions when they are with you.
3. Reach out to men who you think may be hurting.
Many men who struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts often hide in plain sight.
They may drop increasingly apparent hints to the people around them to see if anyone notices or cares. Or, they may just suffer in silence and never give any obvious signs that they’re in pain. Two common examples of this are men that are always in an overly cheery mood (and therefore don’t give themselves permission to ever be anything but positive when in public), or men that always have to be the funniest guy in the room (as humour can often be a mask for underlying disowned pain or sadness).
If you know of a man (or several men) who you think might be secretly hurting, I implore you to reach out to them sooner than later and giving them some energy.
A simple, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you lately. Are you doing alright? I care about you a lot and I want to check in. I would love to meet up and go for a walk/grab a coffee with you sometime in the near future.”
Who knows… your extension of love and concern could save a life.
4. Join or start a weekly men’s group.
One of the single most effective ways that men can support each other is simply being in each other’s presence on a regular basis. Each gender has it’s own gifts to give to the other…but there is something that men get from being with other men that they can not get from their time with women.
I have attended a weekly men’s group for the last two years and it has been an absolute game changer in my life. I feel more connected to men, more connected to my drive, masculinity, and purpose, and feel more deeply loved, seen, and supported in my life day to day.
But remember, to really help make a dent in the male suicide rate, it isn’t just about meeting up and shooting the breeze about nothing in particular. Don’t just meet up at the bar over drinks and call it a men’s group…
5. Connect with men in your life in a deeper way – not just over beers and sports.
If you (or the men in your life) are starting in social isolation and connecting over alcohol or watching sports is your growth edge, there’s nothing wrong with that. Start there. Enjoy your time connecting with others. Create and cultivate your friendships. It will help. But, if you already have friends who you meet up with regularly, I would strongly encourage you to go deeper into your interactions than you currently do.
Talk about the real stuff, how work is really going for you, your intimate relationships. Admit that you’ve been feeling down or lonely lately. Let yourself be seen as struggling or hurting if you are. It isn’t easy… it does take courage, but it will pay off.
One of the greatest benefits of having deep, intimate relationships is that you get to share your innermost thoughts with others, and then receive the feedback that, hey, your dark thoughts aren’t that unique or dark after all. Thereby making you feel less crazy, neurotic, and alone in the world.
Men who are socially isolated are more likely to spiral into their own minds and let the weight of their thoughts take them over. Remember, we are a social species. We need human connection in order to thrive.
Suicidal Thoughts Breed In Isolation And Disconnection
Ultimately, this entire list comes down to human connection.
- If you are hurting, seek out any kind of safe support where you feel safe to feel your feelings.
- If you know someone is hurting, reach out and connect with them.
- If you sense a chronic lack of connection in your life, or you have a difficult time in battling your internal world, I strongly encourage you to join (or start) a weekly men’s group.
- Connect with other people. They are waiting to support you.
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Dedicated to your success,
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, please reach out to a local mental health service provider for assessment and treatment, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or other crisis/suicide hotlines for assistance. In case of suicidal emergency, please dial 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room for immediate intervention.
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