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Men and Suicide

By Mark Bradman

If we are to believe what Statistics NZ says on its web site about suicide rates being:“a sign of the mental health and social well-being of the population”, then the male population in our country and our communities isn’t doing very well at all.

Aside from the fact that NZ’s total suicide figure is at its highest level since the coroner’s office has been publishing them, males commit suicide at three times the rate of females! Put another way, if we could get the male suicide rate down to even the level of female suicides (which is tragic enough), we would effectively halve the number of suicides in NZ!

So where do we begin? – My own experience leads me to focus on ‘Men Being Real’; being able to speak out about things that may be troubling me.

This is a paradigm shift I’ve been adopting relatively recently in my life, as opposed to stewing on things in isolation, which I picked up from early times by virtue of it somehow being regarded as unmanly for me to show any vulnerability, any sign of weakness, or even indecision.

Being able to show vulnerability, I believe, is synonymous with being human. When we think about it, having to be tough and strong all the time is not only totally unrealistic but it demeans us to the level of machinery procured to perform certain tasks, only to be disposed of as soon as it breaks down, as we inevitably do.

According to Statistic NZ’s report, the single highest rate of suicide of any demographic is for 40-44 yo males. Why is this so? – My own story shows that the measure of a man was my ability to provide for my family. It was pre-ordained that I would get a job, rise up through the ranks, build a house, get married, start a family, happily ever after…

What actually happened was that I was in a constant struggle to maintain my façade of competency, longer and longer working hours, disconnection from my wife, unable to cope with the demands of fatherhood, divorce, loss of house and home… not adding to a good score on my scale of masculinity.

Fortunately, there is another way. And it’s not about making men more like women but rather about expanding our emotional competency to the levels of our physical competency.

If you’re a man reading this, perhaps, this is the right time for you to give yourself the space to explore your darkest thoughts in a safe environment held by a group of supportive men?

If you’re a woman reading this, perhaps you can pass this article onto a man you know who might welcome the opportunity to address some of his struggles in a different way?

Mark Bradman is a member of the Essentially Men Education Trust Network and previously worked for the Trust as the Programme and Marketing Coordinator

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