Men struggling with issues of identity, purpose and societal expectations have a hard time getting the help they need. Unlike females, who have various resources at their disposal–many of them free–including women’s studies initiatives, government outreach efforts and nonprofit support programs, males have few places to turn. In most cases, the only assistance available is what they glean from certain publications or at websites where individuals who have been similarly affected offer support and insights.
For men who feel overwhelmed, being able to learn from and interact with those who are knowledgeable about or who experienced tragedies of their own can be a true lifesaver–literally. In fact, the lack of understanding regarding issues that have spurred an ever-growing rate of male suicide are one reason why millions of men are connecting with movements like the Red Pill, Herbivore Men and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
Unfortunate, the fact that so many men are reaching like this hasn’t led to more widespread awareness about the immense struggles they face. Around the world, men are killing themselves, and yet there are plenty of people, such as Huffington Post writer Jane Powel, who don’t know why. According to Powel, “There are speculations on why men commit suicide, theories but no actual nuggets.” However, if she took the time to look carefully, she might understand why things have gotten to where they are. Sadly, her ignorance exemplifies that of society in regard to men and their place in today’s society.
There are, of course, many reasons why young men take their own lives. In some cases, it reflects the fact that they can’t come to terms with a gay or transsexual identity. Some are veterans who faithfully served their country but who were left scarred by mental or physical health issues or simply left out in the cold when they exited the military. Others are the downtrodden and the homeless, unfortunate souls whose feelings of hopelessness and despair have forced them to give up on life.
But while these are the rationales that many are familiar with, they are not the only ones. They don’t reflect the pain that tears at the hearts of a great many men–cisgendered straight males, in particular–who have been experiencing the dark realities of relationships with women, raising families, and playing roles imposed on them. By learning about the issues that have contributed to the suicide epidemic and using that knowledge in a positive way, we may be able to help save someone we care about from their own demise.
Four Life Events That Can Lead Men to Kill Themselves
For the most part, the circumstances that have fostered this disturbing state of affairs can be broken down as follows:
- When men get married.
Men and women tend to assume different roles when adjusting to life as a couple. Men are expected to work and do whatever is necessary to make partners happy. Women have various duties they are responsible for, which may involve going to work, overseeing the home, or both. Typically, women negotiate relationships within the family, largely through verbal communication. However, that role often devolves into something harmful, where the goal is not to communicate but to control and manipulate. Experts say that toxic communications, such as when one person repeatedly nags another, can sink a relationship–or worse.
In fact, evidence suggests verbal aggression, bickering and daily arguments can have a seriously detrimental effect on men, perhaps because they tend to be results-oriented, and don’t benefit from venting their feelings through social interaction in the way that women do. Because men are preoccupied with others’ needs and are not communicative by nature, they often bottle things up and don’t share feelings with close friends or family, which can have adverse consequences.
In one study, Dr. Rikke Lund and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen followed 9,875 Danish men and women, aged 36 to 52, for 11 years. Over that period, 196 of the adults died from causes that ranged from heart disease and cancer to alcohol abuse-related liver disease and suicide. Men who said they faced “endless” demands from partners or who said things like “she won’t stop talking” with respect to partners were more than twice as likely to become ill and resort to suicide as the group overall.
- When married men lose their job or a career.
Reports indicate that age discrimination, downsizing and outsourcing have had an outsized impact on middle-aged white men. The experience can be a dark, shameful and traumatic, engendering despair, depression and suicide. This stems from the fact that in many families, men are seen as a disposable utility whose primary mission is to cover bills, food, shelter and basic survival. Males are also assigned a Mr. Fixit role, responsible for repairing leaky pipes and attending to their partner’s emotional grievances–they are the shoulder to cry on.
But with this perspective comes the damage caused when that role disappears. The loss of a job can destroy a man’s self-worth because it is closely tied to his work identity. Regardless of how or why it occurs, it can lead to a situation where family roles are reversed. When that happens, he needs a soft, supportive shoulder and not to be told to “man up.” Without the coping skills necessary to adjust, males can fall into a dark place and contemplate ending it all.
- When men divorce from their wives.
Every year, almost 800,000 American men are divorced; since no-fault divorce laws were enacted in 1970, over 50 million have endured oppressive splits initiated by their wives. Many husbands willingly put noses to the grindstone and dedicate themselves to providing for the home, cars, clothing and vacations. But wives are often quite willing to give that up, claiming they are unhappy, and seek custody of the children, half his assets, and child support payments.
When dropped into this bleak, dark vacuum, alone and often without any warning, many men find no one to turn to for support. Research indicates that they are four times more likely to kill themselves if they don’t get help.
- When men fight for child custody.
When there is a divorce, it is not uncommon for a horrendous child custody mêlée to ensue. Up to 70 percent of soon-to-be-ex-husbands will be accused of having engaged in physical or sexual abuse, including molesting and raping their own children. While almost all of these sordid charges will be false, men must endure a painful and humiliating adjudication process or risk losing their parental rights. Even actor Brad Pitt was left feeling dumbstruck and anguished when accused of abusing his children amid a bitter split with his famous actress wife.
Unfortunately, even when husbands persevere and are proven right, it doesn’t necessarily mean much. Data indicates that women gain custody 60% of the time, which suggests the system is inherently biased against them. Needless to say, men who lose access to their children experience hopelessness and despair. For many, the final straw comes when somebody they don’t know is allowed to raise their sons and daughters with their ex-wives, leaving many believing that taking their own lives is the only option.
Help Your Man from Killing Himself
Fortunately, things don’t have to end badly. Being aware of the issues and the potential consequences can go some way toward preventing something tragic from happening–before it’s too late. To ensure such a fate doesn’t befall a man you care about, consider the following steps:
- Be aware of his situational demeanor. Is he giving away prized possessions, increasing drug or alcohol abuse, or withdrawing from relationships with friends, hobbies and social activities? Has he lost interest in his personal appearance? If he is trying to make such a heavy decision, his thoughts may spin as though moving through different channels. He may dwell or communicate about death, uselessness or suicide in various creative forms, including poetry, music, art, or writing.
- Avoid certain natural reactions. Do not panic, criticize or react with drama or anger in the face of such circumstances. Avoid your own self-chastisement and don’t get caught up in the crosscurrents that can swirl through our minds, including:
- “How could he do this to me (or us)?”
- “I have to keep this secret.”
- “Didn’t I love/watch/listen to him enough?”
- “Will they try again?”
- “If I pretend this didn’t happen, it will go away.”
- “He is just trying to get attention.”
- “This is not my problem – someone else can deal with it.”
- Secure the environment. Remove all knives, weapons, pills and guns, as these are the means by which people commonly kill themselves.
- Establish a connection. Prepare yourself to speak with him and consider what actions you might need to take. Communicate with him on his terms: if he is a problem-solver, athletic coach-type, or a Mister Fix-it, he may not respond or react well to touchy-feely questions and statements emanating from the feminine side of the brain, including:
- “How are you feeling?”
- “Share your emotions.”
- “You look moody.”
- “Why won’t you open up to me?”
- “Can we talk about you?”
- “How you doing?”
Instead, take into account how the masculine brain works and consider moving in a different direction. Among the things you might want to ask or say are:
- “When did you start seeing an end?”
- “Have you figured a way out?”
- “Are there alternatives you’re considering?”
- “What are you trying to solve?”
- “Is there a way out of this situation?”
- “Where is the end of the rope?”
- “You’re not alone let me help decide what to do.”
- “Tell me when you’re ready to give up.”
- “Have you had enough?”
Hopefully, he will open up, and maybe even admit, “Yes, my life is over.” But that doesn’t mean you should tell him he is wrong or flip into caring and supportive mode. Instead, just keep talking. Probe him with questions such as “When will you do it?” and “What’s the plan for ending it?” Allow him to experience the full impact of his thoughts and words. Eventually, as the gravity of what he has in mind sets in, his mood should change.
At that point, ask him if he needs help.
Remember, time heals most, if not all wounds. Situations change and when they do, so will his mood. If the issues are largely financial, there will almost certainly be some sort of safety net available–staying with a friend or relative, working things out with those who can supply critical necessities, or even applying for welfare and food stamps.
Of course, as long as he appears vulnerable, don’t leave him floundering on his own. Stay in contact, keep tabs on what he is up to and, most important, talk to him. If you sense that things have reached a more troubled state, take action and encourage him to seek professional help. If he has a therapist, put in a call–on an emergency basis, if possible. Otherwise, encourage him to see a qualified male psychologist who can assist him with life decisions, rather than a psychiatrist who may only be interested in giving him medications. While it can be difficult to intervene, try to discourage him from taking anything but anti-depressants.
Should there be any sign at all that his situation is becoming critical, have him contact a local suicide line; alternatively, he can try the national suicide hotline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). (USA) If that doesn’t work, contact 911 (for India 888 2 498 498) and ask for immediate assistance. Medical professionals may decide he needs to be in a secure setting for his own protection. While he may not be happy about this, which might even involve a hold of three days or longer, it is certainly better to see him upset than gone for good.
Find more information here. After such disturbing events, some men have tapped the online MGTOW community for ongoing support, healing and comradery. Encourage him to do the same.
-By Tim Patten
About the Author
Tim Patten has published the handy investment guide: MGTOW, Building Wealth and Power. He also wrote WHY I CHEAT – 11 campfire stories for men’s ears only. Both books are a celebration of masculinity and pay homage to the modern men’s liberation movement. Patten previously published a novel about establishing gender equality in professional sports, Roller Babes: 1950s Women of Roller Derby. His coming out biography is titled My Razzle Dazzle and published under the pen name Todd Peterson.