Quite some time ago now, I had two men friends commit suicide, each several years apart. I distinctly remember my friend Devon, once vibrant and upbeat at 19 saying at age 35 that he was all washed up. He’d tried and failed. I could not really understand why someone that age would be willing to throw in the towel. Later I discovered he’d been diagnosed and treated for a labeled psychiatric disorder, was on medication, then went off and disappeared into the wilds, his body washed up on the shores of the Pacific Ocean days later.
Another friend Brian was a very talented musician and our auto mechanic. We knew he was plagued by inner conflict about life and relationships and suffered from depression. He went on a fast in the wilderness and grew so weak he could not come back on his own. We searched for him to no avail. His body was later found at the bottom of a cliff.
Many have heard the stories of businessmen jumping out of windows during the Great Depression and more recently in front of trains.
Why would men do this?
Last year reports from the American Journal of Public Health quoting an 80-year study said that rates of suicide do rise during periods of economic hardship and decline during periods of prosperity, especially for adults between the ages of 25 and 54 years old.
Overall men have a higher rate of successful suicide than women, and for each age group of men there are different reasons attributed.
Younger men report various pressures that they feel unable to adapt to or cope with.
The 25-54 working age group is most susceptible to economic variations as responsibility for mortgage payments, health insurance, children’s educations and a variety of other expenses pile up. An economic downturn could be a precipitating factor.
In older men, suicide is most strongly associated with depression, physical pain and illness, living alone and feelings of hopelessness and guilt.
The AJPH report speaks to the need to help the working age group in this era of plant closings and economic set backs so they know “where to turn, who to turn to, and don’t feel like they are isolated and have no hope, nowhere to go,” according to Dr. Alexander E. Crosby, report co-author and medical epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control’s Division of Violence Prevention.
I believe that kind of help would be good medicine for men in all age groups, both those most predisposed to suicide for any number of psychological reasons and those many who experience isolation, don’t attempt suicide but do lose track of what life may have to offer, a reason and sense of purpose for their lives.
When men at any age can be assisted to reconnect with a deeper sense of purpose and meaning, they become far less vulnerable to external forces and changes, can tap into resilience and inner resources they may not have recognized within themselves.
We in the Passion Test family have seen that happen before our very eyes in the local, regional and international workshops and programs where men can experience what it feels like to come out of isolation and into a field of new possibilities with the solid and ongoing support of others modeling and committed to living the most passionate life they can.
I know I have days in which meeting life challenges is the last thing I feel up for. It’s called “contraction” and just like the tides going in and out, the moon waxing and waning, it’s a natural cycle of contraction and expansion. When we repeatedly feel trapped or alone in the waning phase, it can be scary to say so and ask for acknowledgment or help. That's probably what Henry David Thoreau was talking about when he spoke of men "leading lives of quiet desperation."
It could be that one of the most potent preventative health measures a man can take to save his life is to clearly identify, then get support for living his passions and unique sense of purpose.
Check our Quantum Leap Coaching website, www.quantumleapcoaching.org for upcoming workshops and trainings that can create that clarity, expansion and ongoing support for men and the women that love them.