“Don't give up. Don't give in. Wake up, release your warrior and tell your demons, 'Not today! Let's dance mother f#@kers!'” - Helen Edwards
Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, Robin Williams.
These are just a few well-known people who died by suicide in the last few years.
They are not alone. Sadly, not even close.
Death by suicide in the U.S. is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. We, as middle-aged males, are especially vulnerable, as we represent the fastest-growing suicidal age group.
How can this be? We should be riding the wave of our success at this point in our lives, right?
Traditional gender roles play a part. Think Outlaw Josey Wales. We grow up thinking we should be tough, rigid, and unemotional.
Under-diagnosed depression plays a part. We tend to joke about our situation or describe our issues as “stress-related.” We do this instead of recognizing them as sadness or perhaps even hopelessness.
Resistance to outside assistance plays a part. Many of us erroneously believe asking for help is a sign of weakness.
Self-medicating plays a part. We often turn to alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors to relieve our emotional and physical pain.
Truth is many of us are dealing with sever life stressors at this point in our life. Relationship struggles. Financial difficulties. Legal issues. Health concerns.
Toss-in, we tend to act impulsively, and you have a severe and deadly combination.
Social psychologist Roy Baumeister, an international authority on self and identity, said the path to suicide for men often goes like this:
1. Failing to meet unrealistically high life expectations (either imposed by self or others) or experiencing adverse life circumstances or setbacks.
2. This becomes self-blame, and they see themselves as “inadequate, incompetent, unattractive, guilty.”
3. This may be expressed as depression, anxiety, or anger, followed by a need to escape the despair of self-disgust and focus on the present intolerable situation instead of the future.
4. Reckless behavior, absence of emotion and irrational thought take over, often showing up as substance abuse, self-harm, risky actions, social withdrawal.
5. The notion of suicide becomes less fearsome, and the appeal of escape takes over.
So, what can we do?
First and foremost, PLEASE DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE.
You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone.
Second, let’s get honest with the way we feel. If we are depressed, we need to tell someone: a loved one, a friend, our doctor, whoever.
Don’t ignore the signs. Some of the symptoms of depression include anger, irritability, social withdraw, risk-taking, drug, and alcohol abuse.
Next, let’s lookout, support, and listen to each other. If you notice someone is exhibiting the above behaviors, reach out to them. Keep in mind our lives often feel much different from the inside than they look on the outside.
Finally, it’s time we drop the stigma of asking for help. It is killing us. Literally.
September is suicide prevention awareness month. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.