The scary truth about male suicides
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
In my life, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some pretty astounding men. Men who are brave, funny, resilient, forward thinking, clever and kind.
Sometimes these same men drive me crazy, but that’s okay, I can live with that most of the time.
But something scares me about the men in my life, and this is what it is.
This week, the BBC reported on the causes of death across the world, the recent trends in this, and changes over time in life expectancy. For me, one part was particularly shocking, regarding deaths over the past couple of years. Across the globe, almost twice as many people died from suicide than by homicide. In the UK, suicide deaths were SIXTEEN times higher.
It gets worse.
In the UK, suicide is the LEADING cause of death for men aged 20-40.
Not cancer, not heart disease, not stroke or accidents on the road. The raw and uncomfortable truth is that young men in our country are dying of something that is totally and utterly avoidable. They are becoming so desperately unhappy that for some reason the only choice that they see available to them is to end their own life.
I don’t know about you, but this isn’t something I can just simply read and forget about. I know too many amazing young men for this fact to not completely terrify me.
Traditionally, men don’t have a good reputation when it comes to looking after themselves. Think of a stereotypical man and you may think of one who would rather battle through an illness on their own rather than go to see a doctor. One who would never dream of talking about their feelings or (gasp) actually cry in front of another person. He would rather stay silent and work things out for himself than appear ‘weak.’
You may be surprised to know that this isn’t true for most of the men I know, and I don’t think men are being given enough credit for how they are dealing with their problems. In an average month, the number of male clients I see compared to the number of female clients is always roughly equal. I have never had a time when the number of women contacting me has significantly outweighed the number of men, but at times it has been the other way around.
The men I meet are taking control of their problems and are open to challenging their beliefs and their ways of coping. They are sensitive, insightful and in touch with their emotions. They are all unique individuals who truly inspire me, and who I look forward to seeing each week and spending time with.
However, as many men as there are who head to the doctor or into counselling ready to ask for help, there are many, many more who don’t see this as a realistic option. They may be a very logical thinker and want to figure things out for themselves. They may come from a family background where no one really shared or spoke about how they felt. They may know something is wrong but just have no clue how to approach it.
Things are changing and more men are reaching out than ever before. But the facts don’t lie and thousands of men are dying from something that is entirely treatable.
I am the mother of two amazing boys. I want them to grow up in a society where mental health is more understood and openly spoken about than ever before. In a country where they feel confident in asking for help and aren't afraid to tackle either their mental or physical health. In a world where the leading cause of death for young men is no longer something they choose for themselves.
We all have men in our lives that we love and we don’t want to lose. It is up to all of us to help them see that by asking for help it is a sign of strength, not weakness. We must show them that they are so overwhelmingly special to us that to lose them would be insurmountable. That we will do everything humanly possible to keep them here and more than that, to help them to find happiness in their lives.
Things are changing. There is hope. But it's not happening fast enough and right now, suicide remains the biggest killer of young men today.
I am scared.