Men and boys comprise nearly 80% of all completed suicides in the United States.(1) With this sort of number one would assume that there would be services that focus specifically on suicidal males. Surprisingly, there are almost no programs that focus on helping men and boys who might be suicidal. [...] Even more surprising is how difficult it is to secure funding to study this disparity. Lanny Berman, the Executive Director of the American Association for Suicidology, made the following statement in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006: “As much as I would love to lead the charge [in finding out why boys kill themselves], try to go out and get funding for it.”(2) Berman’s statement expresses his frustration that funders aren’t interested in studying boys and men. Berman is not alone; organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) have voiced similar sentiments. NASW ran a study on suicidal girls in 2008. When asked about their reasons for studying girls rather than boys, Elizabeth Clarke, the NASW Executive Director, stated that the funder specified the money was dedicated to studying girls.(3) In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 200+ page document titled “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action,” they only mention men and boys once: in a sidebar that indicates: “Over half of all suicides occur in adult men ages 25-65.”(4) Even this important document seems to negate the stark reality of the 80% of suicides completed by males; there simply seems to be very little interest in learning about men and boys and why they are more prone to kill themselves or how we can help them.
1. (2006) National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data 2006, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Volume 57, Number 14, April 17, 2009 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf
2. Ryan, Joan. “Sorting Out Puzzle of Male Suicide.” San Francisco Chronicle 26 Jan. 2006: b-1. Print. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/26/BAGHRGT0DV1.DTL&hw=suicide&sn=003&sc=490#ixzz0Y6EBcvdg
3. Personal correspondence 2009 with Elizabeth Clarke, Executive Director NASW.
4. (2001 )National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. Rockville, MD : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2001. Includes index.
The article goes on with reasons and recommendations, read it, it is a good one. One point that stood out for me is this double bind:
A dependent male is a male that is judged harshly. Men are in a double bind. If they say they are not in need of services then they are held in high esteem but forfeit the help they need. If men admit they are in need of services, they are seen as worth less. Peter Marin, in an article titled “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare–Jack Becomes Homeless,” states:
To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.(7)
A depressed and suicidal man is a dependent man. When we are hopeless and helpless we are far from being independent. Hopelessness and helplessness are the cornerstones of what underlies suicidal ideology. A man who feels hopeless and helpless will likely avoid letting others know his dependency and will avoid exposing his need by asking for help.
7. “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare Jack Becomes Homeless.” Alicia Patterson Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.