(RIP to the three thousand people who died on 9/11 and to the tens of thousands of Afghanistans, Iraqis, American and allied soldiers, and others who have died in wars as a consequence of it.)
Moderation Note: This is a zero-tolerance space for “women attempt suicide more because they don’t really want to kill themselves, therefore their problems are less problematic than men’s” bullshit. Your comment will be deleted. Any person who is suicidal has a serious problem.
I didn’t get to make a post on World Suicide Prevention Day, which was yesterday, because, somewhat appropriately, I was busy preventing my own suicide. (People, I am fine, please do not worry. But yeah, that’s what I was doing.) Being mentally ill and having friends who are mentally ill on holidays meant to raise awareness of suicide is always an interesting phenomenon: I am already perfectly aware of suicide, thank you. I would prefer a World Suicide Not Awareness Day. 24 hours in which no one wants to kill themselves or remembers what it’s like to want to kill yourself! Come on, people, let’s make this happen.
Suicide is gendered. Cross culturally, women are more likely to attempt suicide or the genders are at an equal risk of suicide attempts, but men are more likely to succeed. Part of the reason is that men are more likely to use effective suicide methods: in countries with guns, men are more likely to shoot themselves; in other countries, men are more likely to hang themselves. Women, conversely, are more likely to attempt overdose, a method which is less often fatal (although it can have some nasty long-term health effects).
What this shows is that there’s a huge problem of unrecognized and unnoticed male depression: not only are men far less likely to be diagnosed with depression, but they are far less likely to show the conventional symptoms of depression– even if they’re suffering just as much. Men tend to “act out,” while women tend to “act in”– women tend to give conventional signs of depression, while men tend to abuse substances, become violent, and attempt suicide. One of the best ways to help men and to prevent suicide is to encourage them to seek help when they need help, and to teach people to recognize signs of distress that might be less obvious.
If you are suicidal, there is always someone you can talk to. In the United States or Canada, you can call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (I can attest that they’re awesome). In the UK, you can call the Samaritans at 08457 90 90 90. If you are a reader from another country and wish to have your suicide hotline included, drop me an email, Tweet, or comment and I’ll include it. (The Wikipedia list of suicide crisis hotlines is here.)
If your friend is suicidal, if you can, stay by their side and remove any obvious implements of suicide and self-harm from them (knives, pills, etc.). Listen to them. Some people like physical touch when they’re suicidal. Many people like to do something fun and distracting, such as watching a movie they like or baking cookies. If they have a therapist, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional, contact them. If they’re an Internet or other long-distance friend, keep in contact with them if you can and see if you can contact some meatspace friend who might be able to help them more than you can.