Why Do Men Kill Themselves?
That is a question I’m often asked and of course, there is no simple answer.
Another question I get asked is, “Why don’t men talk?” Often the people who have asked me this question voice their own varied opinions here.
As a therapist, lecturer, mental health trainer and someone who is passionate about reducing the terrible challenges men face with their mental health, I can’t give you a clear and definitive answer. I don’t believe anyone can. However, I can give you some of my thoughts which might hopefully land with at least one man, and help him to change his mind.
First, I need to be clear that I’m not someone who is considered ‘fluffy’, ‘spiritual’ or ‘alternative’. I am, however, practical, logical and a believer in scientific evidence to support my understanding of the mind and our behaviour. So, with that in mind, why do so many men suffer in silence and far too often choose to take their own lives rather than suffer more?
Suffering in Silence
As humans living in the fast-paced, always ‘on’ 21st-century world, it’s hard to understand our place in the modern world – and that applies to all of us, regardless of our sex. However, I feel that men have been shown, told and led to believe that we should be strong and reliable, fearless and with the capacity to cope with whatever life throws at us.
Logically of course, we know that’s not true. However, when we experience excessive levels of stress and pressure, it weakens our resilience and that in turn can lead to us to getting stuck. We can become stuck in the part of our brain that will constantly point out our flaws (or even make up new ones!), tell us we’re not good enough, not worthy, not attractive, not… not… not… It is a very negative part of the brain which makes us feel that we are a burden.
Regardless of the ‘truth’, whilst we are in this part of the brain, our thoughts will be very destructive and this can lead some men to feel such a burden or so low that it makes them believe everyone would be better off without them in their lives. It might also make them believe that it’s the only way to stop the extreme emotional pain they feel they will have to struggle with for the rest of their life.
Instead, we need to be operating from the part of our brain that allows us to make a proper assessment of what’s going on around us. This part of the brain helps us to adjust to those things that we have little or no control over and it helps us to notice and appreciate what is going well and what we are good at. It is so important for us to be able to notice what has been good, even on a bad day, and even if it’s a tiny thing.
Noticing those small things actually makes all the difference because when we do this, we release chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters), that act as catalysts for us to feel better, to feel positive and good about ourselves. The main hormones and neurotransmitters I’m talking about here are Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins. Although these all occur naturally in our mind and body, we do need a reason to keep producing these chemicals. The good news is these chemicals are actually very simple to stimulate. Taking small positive actions, simple positive interactions with the people in our lives and having positive thoughts (such as just noticing what’s been good) will all help to stimulate these crucial chemicals.
Many of the men I’ve had the opportunity, pleasure and ultimately the privilege to work with, have often said that to get to this point (i.e. seeking help from a professional) was a huge step. They had either taken many, very small steps to get to that point or they had realised that there was no other option – they couldn’t keep feeling the way they did, the pain was too great and they had to do something.
You Are Not Alone!
One of the great things I sometimes hear, but not often enough, is that they did talk to a friend and to their surprise, their friend not only understood but ‘got it’ and was empathetic. When you realise that you’re not alone, you’re not being judged and that asking for support isn’t being “weak”, it allows you to start taking the steps to get back to a place where you feel more in control of yourself and your behaviour.
There is real value in noticing each small good thing. Whilst it might be hard to conjure up it can be done. Remember a really simple and small good thing, because if you just find the start of that ‘good thing’, you can expand it little by little. Write that positive thing down, then tell someone about it maybe, as this will reinforce the good thing.
What you’re actually doing here is creating that flow of positive chemicals in the mind which is repeated each time we find a positive thing (or having positive interactions or take positive action). This process actually starts to change the way your brain is wired and helps you to become more positive in general. This is called neuroplasticity and it really can make a huge difference, you just need to get into the habit of doing it consciously and eventually it will start to become easier and more automatic.
Is it time to talk?
One of the most frequent phrases said about men is ‘we don’t talk’. The thing is, as hard as it might be, we do need to talk about what is troubling us. The problem is that for hundreds of years, we have been told not to talk or show emotion and instead to be brave, strong and to “man up”.
It’s time to change this and get men to talk. We just need the right space to do it. So, find the place, the people and the environment that suits you and see if it feels better than you expected it to – I bet it does.
Of course, you could go and see your GP or you could book a session with a therapist like me, but it can be even easier than that. There are chat rooms and helplines specifically to support men and they understand and won’t judge in any way.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or finding it hard to stay afloat, then please do reach out to someone.
About the Author: Gary Johannes is Founder and Director here at Inspired To Change and he runs a busy solution-focused Hypnotherapy Practice based in Peterborough. Gary is also an authorised Mental Health First Aid Trainer and a speaker on Mental Health Awareness and Men’s Mental Health.
If you are feeling low and struggling to see the positives in life maybe it’s time to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Somerset.
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