Lately, I’ve received a lot of messages from men who are really struggling, and I have a very legitimate fear that as we continue to navigate through COVID-19 we are going to see an increase in male suicides over the next few months.
Men, we are dying by suicide at a rate that is three times higher than women. Why? Well let’s look at some of the headlines out there.
Women seek help. Men die.
I get it, asking for help doesn’t come naturally for us. I have stood at the fork in the road. I flirted with death for many years because I didn’t know how to live. Actually, I feared living more than dying.
In my latest book MENtal Health: It’s Time to Talk I interviewed a middle aged man named Murray who stated that he would rather die than ask for help. Eventually, his wife gave him the ultimatum. Either go get help or see yourself out the door. Murray chose the door and lived in a motel for a few days. Thankfully, eventually he was able to seek the help he needed, but my question is why does it have to get to this point for so many men?
Here’s something to think about. 2 men are at a cancer clinic receiving treatment. One has been diagnosed with stage 4 and another stage 1. As if the man with stage 4 would ever say to the other man what are you doing here for treatment so soon? Your cancer hasn’t even gotten that bad yet? Yeah, it’s ridiculous and it wouldn’t happen. But why do we do this with mental health? What I’m saying is why do things have to get so bad for us before we finally get the help we so desperately need?
See many of us as men have been taught to put our head down, to suck it up, that our gender alone should be enough to get us through our darkest times. Well here’s some truth. That’s all bullshit. You can only stuff so much inside before one is going to become full. Emotions are energy, and when they are trapped within we become irritable, angry, and even aggressive. To tame the beast within we can be quick to turn to self-injurious behaviours, alcohol or drugs. THIS doesn’t work. I tried.
Here are three things that did work for me.
1. Reach out for help
I arrived at a place where I knew I had to do something different if I was going to make it. So I took a risk, became vulnerable and I confided in friends I trusted. I began seeing counselors. I got myself into support groups where people spoke my language and I could be understood.
2. Give yourself permission to feel
I stopped the self-harming behaviours. I stopped the drinking. I stopped looking outside myself to find peace and began looking within. It quickly became apparent that feeling is what leads to healing.
3. I told my story
As soon as I began to speak my truth it felt liberating. I was no longer in hiding, and to my surprise it allowed other men to come out from hiding. They began to approach me saying those two powerful words.
Damn. I wasn’t alone.
People often ask what’s that tattoo mean. I lost my best friend, Justin Andres, to suicide. I traced over his initials from a letter he wrote me. I put it on my throat chakra as a statement: I am done with the silence. The phoenix represents rising up from the ashes. This is a reminder for me to continue to put a voice to my own pain, and attempt to empower other men to do the same.
I speak in way too many communities where there has been a recent suicide and nobody’s talking. I look at the boys, and I see they looking up at us as men after these tragedies. Hey, what should we do? Too often the response is nothing. Well, then history has a tendency to repeat itself. We have to talk. Boys are training to be men and we need to lead by example.
I know a lot of men who are redefining what it means to “be a man”. And if you want to meet these men I would like to offer you a free ebook of my bestselling book MENtal Health: It’s Time to Talk. If this is of interest, send me a message through my website and I will make sure you receive a copy.
I can confidently say that there is nothing manly about suffering in silence.
Keep talking men. Keep fighting.