November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and Men’s Health Month. In memory of my dear grandfather who passed away from this illness, I will publish one post every Tuesday on the topic of prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.
TW: This post will mention depression, suicide and suicidal thoughts.
November is a month when we talk about men’s health issues, both physical and mental, and no discussion of male health should ignore the topic of suicide. Men make up around 75 %of all suicide victims. So, while it is not a men’s only issue, it is a fact that the majority of people who take their own lives are men.
No doubt, the societal pressure put on men to always be strong, to be leaders, protectors and providers, puts extra stress in a man’s life and may dissuade him from seeking help. Changing those societal expectations will take a long time but the fact is that men need help today, right now.
So, what can we do to prevent male suicide today? First and foremost, it is important to recognise the signs of a man being suicidal. These can be:
1. Talking about wanting to die or expressing feelings that everything is hopeless. This can be said in a serious tone but can also take the form of morbid jokes.
2. Talking about feeling like a burden, like he doesn’t contribute anything to the family or to society.
3. Sudden episodes of rage or anger.
4. Reckless behavior with no concern for the consequences.
5. Self-harm. This can be injuring himself through things like cutting but it can also be on the form of alcohol and drug abuse.
6. Becoming withdrawn, avoiding friends and family and isolating himself.
7. Making a will or giving away cherished belongings.
8. Any sudden change in behaviour. A man you’ve always known as kind might become aggressive and rude. Or a man who has long been sad and depressed might suddenly seem happy and carefree, perhaps even throw a party for all his friends.
Needing to feel wanted and useful is also important for a man’s sense of purpose or belonging. For this reason, men are more likely to be suicidal if they are struggling with joblessness, divorce, social isolation or lack of success in dating. Men are also far more likely to commit suicide after retirement.
If you know someone who is having suicidal thoughts, encourage them to seek help from a professional or to call a suicide hotline. Encourage them to share their feelings and listen without judgement. Do not leave the person on their own and take away anything they might use to harm themselves, such as ropes or firearms. If you believe there is an immediate risk that the person will take their own life, call emergency services.
If you are yourself struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to someone in your life or call a suicide hotline. Here is where you can seek help:
Lifeline: National suicide hotline of the US. Also offers help in Spanish.
UK suicide hotlines: Information from the NHS about different suicide hotlines.
Lifeline Australia: Australian suicide hotline.
New Zealand suicide hotlines: A list of suicide hotlines available in New Zealand.
International help: A list of suicide hotlines from all around the world.