The Sydney Morning Herald reported this morning:
Life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017, the government said in a bleak series of reports that showed a nation still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises.#1
I’m not familiar with American statistics, but an Australia study in 2017#2 reports suicide as the leading cause of death between ages 15 and 44, from 2014-2016. It’s also the third leading cause of death from 45-64. The rate of suicide in men is three times higher than in women#3.
Those are big words to me. How did we get here? What’s happening to our men? Our young men?
In this age of anxiety, where our connections are increasingly shallow and fleeting, have we lost our footing?
Thinking back a few generations, people in Western cultures largely grew up where their ancestors did. In my family tree, the family stayed in one small area for over 500 years and only started to disperse the last century, in my parents’ generation. The two World Wars were factors, in my family’s case.
I grew up in the UK but have lived in Australia for 28 years. If someone had told me that when I was a teenager, I would have laughed.
My parents grew up with their extended family and community around them, but with little money or resources. They didn’t routinely change jobs, move house or travel. They had few possessions.
My father held one engineering job for his entire career until retirement. During my parents’ 53-year marriage, they lived in only three houses. As a child, I lived in only two, yet by the time I was 40, I had lived in 40.
In recognizing the rift from our earlier grounding connections, which helped us know our place in the world, some of us have tried to forge new deep friendships and relationships. These days it’s not so easy, is it? Who has the time or the energy? When do we drop round unannounced to our mates’ houses for a cuppa or a beer and a chat?
Are we too busy to connect? Is it a lost art? Consumerism fills our free time, telling us what we really need is… food, drink, cars, gadgets, social media. We consume in private, on the run, because we think everyone else is too.
However, if we look for a sense of belonging in our consumption, we are cultivating addiction. We are hardening ourselves to our lack of real connections and looking for a collective substitute.
The men I speak with about this tell me they feel lost and afraid. The can’t remember why they are doing all this or when it got so hard, but they are in an agony of self-deprecation and inadequacy, burning themselves out and losing their relationships. They are lonely and confused, searching for a way to get back to wholeness and integration.
What can we do for each other, my brothers?
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