By Dr. Scott Young, licensed psychologist at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center
(September 2017) Hi All! For our blog topic this month, I want to open a discussion about a tough topic. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and while this is an important topic for us all to consider, it is especially important to open a dialogue with boys and men about suicide. For various reasons, we know from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) that girls and women are far more likely (3x) to ATTEMPT suicide during the course of their lives; however, we also know that boys and men are far more likely to COMPLETE suicide (3.5-4x) than girls and women.
Furthermore, we know from a recent study at the University of Iowa, that farmers have been particularly vulnerable to the lure of suicide since the farm crisis of the 80s and continuing today. I’d like to give just a few more statistics to drive home how important this discussion really is to we Iowans. Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death overall, here in Iowa, and is the 2nd leading cause of death among Iowans age 15-34. In my clinical practice, I’ve also seen a deeply troubling trend toward more suicidality among our teenagers.
The above statistics make a chill run down my spine, and are very sobering. They also highlight some opportunities for all of us, male and female, to examine how we can play a part in changing the lives those statistics represent. It is within all our power to educate ourselves on risk factors, signs of risk for suicide, and ways to help ourselves and/or others who face thoughts of suicide. To that end, I’d like to share some thoughts and resources in the hopes they may prove helpful to you.
- No one is immune to the effects of suicide. While I’ve shared above some demographic information about particular risks, anyone can be struggling!
- Most people who experience suicidal thoughts are in great pain and/or have suffered great loss, such as loss of job, romantic partnership, respect, or legal freedoms. To view people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and behaviors as “weak” downplays their pain, and ignores that we all could find ourselves in their shoes.
- People who have supportive relationships and communities, including religious and spiritual communities, are less likely to suicide. They are also more likely to receive treatment for underlying physical and mental health concerns that put them at risk for suicide.
- When in doubt, don’t hesitate to talk about suicide! There is no evidence that asking someone or talking about suicide “puts the idea in their head.” Since males can often receive messages about being the “strong silent type”, we especially need others to check in with us about suicide so we can feel ok to open up. Even if someone is shocked or mad on the surface because you asked, doesn’t mean you were wrong to ask out of care and concern.
- Men are less likely to seek help for many health concerns, especially traditional mental health help. Don’t assume that anyone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts is getting help, or that others know and are taking care of that person!
- There are supports available. Whether for you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reaching out for help can be the most difficult and important thing. Resources for help can be found through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at: https://afsp.org/find-support/. You can also seek emergency assistance from a local hospital or 911 call, and non-emergency assistance from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center at (515) 274-4006.
- For more information, please see the following resources:
Men/boys and mental health, more blog posts here: www.dmpcc.org/men
Survivor of Suicide Loss Support Group for women and men:
The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center offers a monthly support group for survivors of suicide loss. It matters not how long ago your loss. For more information: www.dmpcc.org/survivor