Too often, the first and only time a man expresses how he’s feeling is in a suicide note. Men, we need to talk.
Today, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is a significant global public health issue, with three out of four suicides being men.
510,000 men die from suicide globally each year, that’s one every minute…yet it’s hidden in the shadows and shrouded in stigma. It’s our mission that this becomes a global priority and we finally do something to address it.
It’s impossible to talk about suicide without talking about poor mental health, with approximately 90% of people who die by suicide experiencing a mental health problem.
Mental health problems affect men and women of all ages. Research tells us that women suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression. However, health outcomes when it comes to mental health weigh heavily against men because most of us don’t handle mental health illness well.
Women are more likely to talk about what’s going on and seek help for mental health problems, whereas we men are good at bottling things up and toughing it out – even if we’re in a pretty bad place. This is a major problem and the most significant health issue we face, as not taking action can lead you down a very dark path, with devastating results.
Tackling suicide is a complicated, sensitive area and one that needs a multi-tiered approach. However, we know that helping men stay mentally healthy is an important component and that getting men to talk about the ‘big’ stuff will result in an improvement in mental health and a reduction in their suicidal behaviour.
We’re pretty good at talking about sport, work, the latest gadget, or the latest film but as men need to get better at talking about the significant stuff going on in our lives – things like losing a job, the breakdown of a relationship, a significant set back, or becoming a father for the first time. These things happen regularly and, for some, have the potential to derail us or just be more challenging than perhaps we’d imagined. A conversation at these times can help you remain on top of things.
I know first hand it isn’t easy to just talk, we were raised in a world where men were supposed to be in control, always strong, never weak, always winning. It’s just easier to say, “I’m good” when you’re casually asked “How ya doing mate?”
Even though I don’t want to burden my mates with my struggles, I’m here for them if they need me. Unfortunately this is a really common dynamic which we confirmed through some recent Movember Foundation funded research, as guys we are there for our mates but none us will ask for help. Essentially it’s a stand off!
Sadly as a result, in many cases the first time a man’s family and friends hear that things have been tough is in a suicide note. At which point, it’s too late, and that to me is just devastating.
It’s naive to think that a conversation will save every life but conversations do help men stay mentally healthy and we know there’s a close association with suicide and poor mental health. So it’s time to break our silence and recognise that the key to overcoming even the biggest problems is to start talking.
We all have an individual responsibility to try and ensure we look out for the men in our lives and ensure they know it’s good to talk and that no one will think any less of them.
So I have a simple message – Men, we need to talk, especially when things get tough.
By Adam Garone
Movember Foundation, CEO
Photo courtesy of the author.