Today is international mental health awareness day and on the weekend the Sydney Morning Herald turned its’ attention to suicide prevention in the male population, publishing an article titled: “Self-reliant men more likely to have suicidal thoughts: researchers find”.
The authors made reference to recent research into the particular qualities that men who experience suicidal ideation share. The research identified that men who considered themselves to be self-reliant were 34% more likely to have experienced suicidal thoughts. The article also noted some remarkable statistics about suicide: suicide as a proportion of total deaths in Australia hit a 10 year high in 2015 with 3027 recorded suicides. Furthermore, most male suicides were in the 30-54 year-old age bracket.
The message was that the notion of being self-reliant, which may be a very male thing, is not a helpful thing and it may impede some men from seeking help when they need it most. In the worst case scenarios this may result in someone taking there own life.
As a clinical psychologist, I have helped many people who have been suicidal. It is often in the midst of a depressive episode and when there is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness for the future. There are often thoughts of being worthless and feeling alone in their suffering. As you read this, you may be thinking “I have felt hopeless and worthless at times, but I would never kill myself”. It is true, many people experience hopelessness and worthlessness yet don’t think suicidal thoughts; however, for some people the feelings and thoughts are prolonged and insufferable. It can be too much to bear and a helpless situation, so they would think. This is when the suicidal thoughts begin to emerge: “maybe it would be easier if I just ended it all”; “I don’t deserve to live”; “no one would miss me/it would be easier for my kids/family”.
For people who are at this stage, it is imperative to seek help and there are a number of reasons why. Firstly, the way that you feel can effect your thinking and you may be thinking something that is not accurate. A clinically trained professional, such as a psychologist, can help to identify this. Secondly, you didn’t always feel like this so it is reasonable to expect that things can change in the future. Thirdly, there are many ways of improving your mood, building hope and a sense of self-worth. A clinical psychologist is specifically trained in these methods and can share these ideas with you.
The notion of being self-reliant is unhelpful when it gets in the way of you seeking the help you need. This does not mean that you should avoid solving your own problems; you should at least give it a go. If you had a cold with a runny nose, body aches and pains, and a sore throat then you’d be best to get some rest, eat soup, and drink plenty of fluids. But if your illness becomes prolonged, your throat seems to be infected, or your cough seems to be more than just a cough, it would be wise to see a doctor who is specially trained in understanding your illness and prescribing the right treatment.
So why should we treat problems with the mind and our emotions differently? Indeed, go ahead and do what you can to make yourself feel better: exercise, improve your diet, get a good night sleep, go out with friends. But when the hopelessness becomes prolonged and unmanageable to the point that you want to kill yourself, get some help.
If you suffer suicidal thoughts, or know someone who may, get help soon and save a life. You make an enquiry by clicking the orange “Book an appointment” tab at the top right of this page and we will get back to you usually within 24 hours.
Alternately, you can contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
The ABC are screening a documentary, Man Up, which airs on Tuesday 11th October (tomorrow). It aims to kick start a conversation about Aussie male suicide and sounds like it would be worth watching.