The Men-tal State
This week's article may strike more of a personal note with some readers. Like many of us through the past few months we may have been feeling somewhat bored, lonely, isolated, and even a little depressed at times because of the ongoing pandemic. Whilst many of us have been on facetime and zoom quizzes with our mates, others may have felt more isolated than ever.
This week's article focuses on mental health, particularly in men. Most of you reading this will probably know someone who has experienced some sort of mental health condition or possibly suicide. It is important to get the word out there to the everyone reading this that it is okay not to be okay. Suicide and self harm are not mental health problems themselves - but they are linked with mental distress. In this article we will explore how awful and common suicide is, what help is available for those that are feeling depressed, and things you can try to improve your mood.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of men who elect to end their own lives prematurely through suicide. While women tend to experience more suicidal thinking, men are far more likely to die by suicide. In the United Kingdom, there were a reported 6,507 deaths by suicide in 2018, with 75% of this number coming from males. That is a horrifying amount of people that have chosen a permanent solution to a temporary problem (even though the problem may not feel temporary).
Risk Factors Linked to Suicide
Risk factors can include both the situations a person experiences and how the person is feeling internally. Though it may be easier to recognise situations and times when suicide is more common, understanding how someone is feeling inside requires a little more detective work. Some of the most common risk factors are as follows:
- Using drugs and/or alcohol to help cope with emotions, relationships, the pressure of work, or other issues.
- Social isolation or living alone.
- Divorce or relationship breakdowns.
- A history of physical or sexual abuse.
- Loss of loved ones through trauma or disease.
- Mental illness, particularly where this is related to depression and painful or debilitating illness or conditions.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Making out a will or giving away possessions.
- Inappropriately saying goodbye.
- Making ambiguous statements like "you won't have to worry about me anymore", "I wish I could go to sleep and never wakeup" or "I just can't take it anymore".
- Suddenly switching from being very depressed to very or calm for no apparent reason.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Statements like "You would be better off without me" or "I wish I was dead", talking openly about wanting to kill oneself.
If you notice or observe any of these risk or warning signs in your friends or family encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. If they refuse you must endeavour and be persistent. If they appear to be in immediate danger and are likely to hurt themselves, do not leave them alone, remove any possible means that they can use to hurt themselves.
Why Do Men Commit Suicide More Than Women?
In addition to the above risk factors, there are few possible explanations as to why men choose to end their lives more than women.
Gender roles - Men are told they need to be tough and that they should not need to ask for help. Such rigid gender norms may make it difficult for men to reach out and ask for support when they need it.
Undiagnosed depression - Men often do not disclose feelings of depression to their doctors. When they do, it is often described in terms of having problems at work or in relationships. Men also tend to describe their feelings as "stress" rather than sadness or hopelessness.
Men are less likely to seek help for emotional problems - Researchers suggest that depression is diagnosed less frequently in men because of the tendency to deny illness, self-monitor symptoms, and self-treat. Men may also be more likely to self-treat symptoms of depression with alcohol and other substances.
How Can I Help Prevent Suicide?
Watch for signs of depression - Symptoms of depression in men include irritability, social withdrawal, anxiety, loss of interest or pleasure, physical pains and complaints, engaging in risky behaviours, misusing drugs and alcohol, and being unable to keep up with normal daily tasks
Offer support - If you notice signs of depression, ask what you can do to help, and let him know that you are there to listen and help.
Don't ignore the signs - Avoid dismissing or making light of comments that indicate suicidal thoughts or behaviours. If you hear suicidal talk or statements, encourage him to talk to his doctor or therapist.
Getting help for people expressing suicidal intent or showing the warning signs is incredibly important. Help is available from a number of different sources, including doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and voluntary organisations.
Normally we finish our articles with a play on words or some sort of quip, but this article is different. It's to let the men reading this know that there is no shame in showing feelings. You are no 'less of a man' by opening up about your thoughts and feelings. Someone is always there to talk to you whether you realise it or not.
Below are some fantastic mental health charities that you can call or text at any time you need. Someone is always here for you, someone is always ready to listen. You just need to let them. Never ever forget that.