Suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 50.
Allow that to sink in for a moment; above war, disease and accidental death, more men choose to end their own lives than men that die unwillingly.
Make no mistake, mental illness is nothing short of a global epidemic. It is well and truly wreaking havoc on the human race, with suicide rates and diagnoses of psychological disorders breaking new records every decade.
Whilst women are more likely to receive a diagnosis of a mental disorder, the chances of men committing suicide due to illness are three times higher; male suicides outnumber female suicides 4:1.
But why on earth do these stark differences occur? What is it about males that puts them at such greater risk of suicide than females?
A Problem Shared...
Many point to the stigma that men are the biggest victims of mental illness purely because they believe that admitting to suffering indicates failure or weakness.
The expectations placed upon men to be self-assured, confident and dominant at all times renders them feeling incompetent in the face of poor psychological health. Men that lack confidence feel unmanly, men with depression wonder why they can’t just ‘suck it up’, and male sufferers of anxiety feel weak and fragile compared to their macho stereotypes.
Men feel emasculated in the face of poor mental health, and so they struggle alone, never admitting that they need help.
Furthermore, to make things worse, emotional discussion is often seen as ‘girl talk’.
Women engage regularly in conversation about their emotions; when a female encounters a personal issue, she will generally feel comfortable enough to confide in her friends about her emotions. Women feel happier seeking advice from others, taking no shame in admitting to struggling.
Men on the other hand, afraid not only of failure in the first place, but also of being considered unmanly for discussing their feelings, ‘bottle up’ their emotions.
In an attempt to avoid being seen as weak and to preserve masculinity, males refrain from discussing their emotions and decide to internalize them, fighting the battle alone.
And this is precisely where the problem lies.
When faced with a personal issue of any kind, our natural response is to talk to others. In confiding in trusted friends or family, we can begin to chip away at a problem, viewing it from the perspective of other people and whittling it down into manageable chunks.
Consequently, the problem is weakened and becomes easier to deal with. As the saying goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. Simply talking to other people about our problems lessens their impact on our well-being. We can begin to see the essence of our problems from another person’s perspective, putting things out in the open instead of losing ourselves in thought.
Therefore, when males feel that they can’t talk to other people without being judged, rejected or deemed a failure, they choose not to.
Men and women indeed both struggle with mental illness, but one half of the population feels comfortable seeking help and the other half are the opposite.
Mental illness damages the well-being of males significantly more, simply because men feel pressured to fight their battles alone. Subsequently, they are hit much harder.
This is largely why suicide rates are so much higher in males. Not only are men suffering in the first place, but they also then isolate themselves rather than seeking help.
There Is No Shame in Seeking Help
Mental illness is something that is likely to affect us all at some point during our lives. Whether small bouts of depression, patches of anxiety or a fully diagnosed condition, there is no shame in seeking support.
There will always be another person that wishes to help you. Even if you feel isolated and like people wouldn’t understand, I can assure you that just talking to other people about your situation will help - even if only a little.
If confiding in friends or family isn’t an option for you, there’s therapy, charities and countless free advice services online.
Below is a list of chronological steps I’d advice anybody in need of support to take. If one step isn’t feasible or workable for you, move onto the next.
- Speak to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings.
- See your GP; they’ll spend time giving you advice and may refer you to therapy.
- Visit an online chatroom, such as Kooth, and seek online support.
‘Ask for help. Not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong.’ - Les Brown