Trigger Warning! Suicide is discussed here.
My pride almost killed me. If I had been left to my own devices, I would undoubtedly be dead. Why was this? Why had an ideal that I knew was absurd almost ended my life?
In today’s society we like to think that we are very progressive, that we’ve moved on somewhat. That we are beyond something as archaic as gender roles. Unfortunately, we are not beyond such concepts. The conception of a male and masculinity is, for some reason, one that is intertwined with strength, and somewhere along the way strength became synonymous with not showing emotion.
It seems cliché to say that men are bad at expressing emotion. However, it seems as though this is the case. Suicide, as it stands today, is the biggest killer of men under thirty. More than heart attacks, more than cancer, more than accidents. Suicide is the killer. If you’re under thirty and you die the most likely cause listed on your death certificate will be suicide. This is without question.
Yet how was this allowed to happen? Why is this the case? The answer, I think, lies in men’s temperament. They feel as though they need to conform to the stereotypical ideal of masculinity, that is, being stoic to the point where it kills them. To emote is to be seen as ‘weak’. Men, myself included, often think that they should be able to simply ‘pull their socks up’ and get on with their lives. Depression, however, doesn’t care for societal expectations.
The idea that men should be stoic and emotionless zombies is reinforced by what depressed men specifically often hear. ‘Be a man!’ This attitude is unbelievably damaging and serves to only make the sufferer feel much worse than they already do.
If left for long enough men that suffer mental health issues simply won’t open up, as to do this goes against their societal identity. Feeling isolated and trapped, the odds are that a suicide attempt, which is likely to be successful as men often use more violent means such as firearms in suicide attempts, will be made.
The fact is that men make up 76% of suicides every year, that’s twelve people a day. 42% of men have contemplated suicide, yet a third never told anyone. These statistics show, I think, that mental health issues as they currently stand may be only the tip of the iceberg. I think a phenomenon that is known as the ‘dark figure’ is at work in regard to mental health issues. That is, that surveys and others means of accessing quantitative data are being skewed due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. The current stat is that one in four people will suffer some kind of mental health problem in their lives.
There were 3, 889 suicides last year. A majority of these are male. The male suicide rate is at the highest it has ever been since 2001. Charities such as CALM and Mind’s priorities are getting men to speak out, seek treatment, and thus avoid fatalities.
Ultimately, depression affects over seventeen million people at any point – that’s eleven percent of the UK population! So if someone speaks out, such as Doug Leddin did recently on social media (his video went viral), they are overwhelmingly met with support and encouragement. This isn’t to say however, that we don’t still have a way to go in regards to mental health. People are still being shunned from their communities and friend groups because they happen to suffer from a mental health problem. It’s getting better, but too slowly for comfort.