It is an odd feeling to sit here typing this at 31 years of age and to know that, statistically speaking, for the next 19 years the thing that is most likely to kill me is myself.
This is not a local phenomenon, this is true worldwide for men. Yet this is something that is given relatively little press as far as i can see. No matter where you go in the world the rates of depression are higher among women and yet the levels of suicide are much higher (almost three times the levels at last count) for men.
The reason for this appears to be simple, women are much more likely to go to the doctor for PREVENTATIVE treatment than men are. Men are much more likely to only seek help when things begin to get very serious, i know that i for one was one of those people. I did not look for any help whatsoever regarding my own mental health until one day i came to the certain realisation that the next afternoon was the moment that i was going to die. Dark stuff.
Having spent the next two years from that point struggling every day to find a reason to live, a task not helped by ineffective counselling treatment (how is a phone conversation supposed to help) and various different antidepressants (not helpful unless in very dire circumstances) i became very interested into the issues that were bothering me.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world and their problems, although China does interest me as this is the only country on the planet where more women kill themselves each year than men, it might be worth an investigation later, but we will see how budgets go. What i can talk about is what i have seen in the UK and the reasons i think that are behind this issue for men.
I believe strongly that the effects of the two world wars had a more lasting effect on our society than was initially expected. Knowing what we do now about mental health and in particular PTSD we can see that the treatment, both medically and societally of the soldiers following the war, and during, was woefully inadequate. The soldiers themselves were at great risk of being thought of as ‘weak-minded’ or ‘cowards’ if they were to complain or seek help for their issues. As a result we had two generations of men (specifically, there were only men in the army at this point) who had to keep quiet through whatever it was they were suffering as a result of the collective guilt of the country for their suffering.
This idea of suffering in silence, the ‘stiff upper lip’ as it were was not only very damaging to the men who fought and suffered through these wars, but also to the following generations who looked to them as an example of what a ‘Man’ was supposed to be. What they saw were men who would not seek help regardless of how bad they were feeling. Men who’s behaviour (when related to PTSD for example) was ignored and allowed to continue without drawing attention to it. This normalisation of suffering, specifically in the male half of society brings a clear message to the young. It is ok for this behaviour to continue, this is the way we want it to be.
The idea of ‘Manning Up’ of ‘Suffering in Silence’ is a casual and convenient way for society to ignore serious problems within it’s systems. On top of that it is hiding one of the biggest killers known to modern man, suicide. The idea of getting help for any ailment, whether mental or physical is something that should be more explicitly taught to men and boys, and equally encouraged as such. That will not happen until conversation is able to be had on a larger scale.