A Word to Men Considering Suicide

My purpose in this post is not to talk anybody out of anything. There are plenty of other resources for that. I feel that, in the end, you gotta do what you gotta do. I would suggest looking at my post on Things to Do Before Killing Yourself, but that’s not about talking anybody out of anything either.

My purpose in this post is simply to suggest a thought. Let me start with some basic facts. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), in the U.S. there are 3.5 male suicides for every female suicide, and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age. Wikipedia adds the remarkable fact that, over age 65, there are ten male suicides for every female suicide.

That Wikipedia article talks about the “gender paradox of suicidal behavior.” An article in BMC Psychiatry (Freeman et al., 2017) describes that paradox as the “phenomenon of men completing suicide more frequently than females, while females engage significantly more frequently in suicide attempts.” In other words, suicide “attempts” are for women; suicides are for men.

In that article, Freeman et al. divided suicide intentions into four types:

  • (non-habitual) Deliberate Self-Harm: the article did not detail this one, but the idea appears to be that the person does not have a history of self-abuse; this is a special occasion, with the intention of harming but not killing oneself.
  • Parasuicidal Pause: suicidal behaviour carried out mainly to escape from problems or unbearable situations.
  • Parasuicidal Gesture: a seemingly suicidal act intended to manipulate or appeal to others.
  • Serious Suicide Attempt: suicidal behaviour carried out with a clear intent to die.

So now you know where to find men on that list, and where to find women.

Why? Researchers aren’t sure. So let’s consider Bob and Bambi, both suicidal. Bob plans to shoot himself, but forgot to buy bullets, so instead he takes a header off the balcony. Bambi has a glass of wine; slits her wrists in the tub; gets discovered and hauled to the hospital, to score some cool meds; comes home and is swaddled in affection from concerned loved ones; and later writes a book about it. Why is Bob different? Because he has balls, evidently.

But why does it turn out that way? Let us ponder the case of Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill go up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack says, Wait, this is f*cked up, water should best be found down at the well. Jill says OK, you go scope it out; I’ll stay here and take an overdose that may give me a bad headache. On his way down, Jack gets his ass kicked by two guys who want to rape Jill but, fortunately, he manages to deter them. He gets to the well, only to discover that some bastard has set up a private concession and is charging more than he can afford. Jack has to work for the guy all afternoon to pay for the water. He lugs two heavy buckets back to the top of the hill, to find Jill being cared for by the entire community, and his irate mother-in-law asking where the hell he was, in Jill’s hour of need. This scenario teaches us that Jill’s suicide is done with, when Jack’s is only beginning.

I don’t mean to be mean to women, nor do I doubt for a moment that women who make suicidal gestures are experiencing intense feelings. I also don’t mean to deny that a lot of women do kill themselves, nor that that is a terrible thing.

I am only putting forward the fact, consistent with this blog’s focus on male disadvantages, that guys have reasons to kill themselves. I read an article once, about the draft horses they used to haul stuff during, I think, the Klondike gold rush in Alaska. Apparently there were accounts of horses that were worked so hard that they would actually walk off a cliff, because they couldn’t stand it anymore. (In a brief search, the best I found on that was a Wikipedia article on animal suicide. It seems that does happen.)

Other posts in this blog address a variety of ways in which men in the U.S. are routinely attacked, ridiculed, and otherwise treated as surplus baggage. I have not had time, so far, to develop those themes as fully as I would like, but that’s OK; others have written many articles and books that do so.

I said, at the start, that my purpose here was simply to suggest a thought. The thought is quite simple: you’ve been had. You’ve been set up. If you’ve reached the point of contemplating suicide, you may just be farther along the curve than others who haven’t yet been fully used.

There are many ways to be set up. The general concept in the U.S. is that we get the most mileage out of you if we keep you in your place. You are a workhorse, or at least you’d better be if you hope to be considered worth a damn; and, like a workhorse, at the end there’s a glue factory or a dogmeat processor. If we thought you were worth as much as a woman, we’d feel that something is terribly wrong when you’re injured on the job or imprisoned in abusive facilities for years on end, because that’s how people react when those things start happening to large numbers of women. If people in our society were raised to care about you, there would be groups of women to walk or drive you home from the bar, late at night, so you reach your destination safe; there would be neighborhood watches, and a culture of raising young heroes, to make sure that scrawny little boys don’t get beat up on their way home from school.

But don’t get me started. Suffice it to say the male role — one that many of us, in various ways, are proud to fulfill — is a role of service to family and community. In our society, unfortunately, that role is so narrowly defined that it often comes down to money; and at a certain point, you cease to be valued for that. Maybe you never were very good at providing it; maybe you were too good, and by now you’ve given them what they wanted from you.

Any way you slice it, the microaggressions add up. Over the years, the message becomes clear. Clearer to some, perhaps, than to others. It is a disturbing message; it is enough to undo a person. It can seem that the most gracious and intelligent response would be to say, If I’m not welcome at this party, I think I’ll leave.

I, myself, believe that’s only the beginning of wisdom. As you see, I’m still here. But, other than pointing again to my other post, I’ll leave it at that.

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