The other day I got into an online discussion with a guy who posted that more men than women died by suicide. Here’s how the conversation went from there.
Me: Men complete suicide at a higher rate, because many of them use guns. Women attempt suicide at a higher rate because they use other means.
I could keep going.
Him: Isn’t it more likely that women try to kill themselves as a cry for help, so they use methods that are slow and interceptabel [sic], while men actually kill themselves because they don’t want to live. Male suicide rates are higher in countries such as mine (DK) s well, where guns aren’t easily obtainable.
Me: No. Anyone who attempts suicide is seriously trying to end their pain. It’s insulting to say that men succeed because they choose better weapons and women aren’t really serious.
Him: So stating facts is insulting?
Me: It’s insulting to imply that women are “not really” trying to kill themselves just because they don’t succeed as often as men do. It perpetuates the stereotype that men are more aggressive and effective, and that women are weak and ineffective. 62% of men report owning guns, as opposed to 22% of women. Maybe that influences their choice of “weapons.” https://www.pewresearch.org/…/how-male-and-female-gun…/
Another Guy: Very poor choices on the women’s side for methods. Poison is extremely painful and slow and exsanguination is also incredibly slow. It makes me wonder if there is some truth to the “cry for help” model.
Me: Poor choices? Cry for help? Can you be any colder and more cliche?
Thinking about this interaction, I am still upset. It feels to me like the men in the conversation were praising men for effectively completing suicide and denigrating women who did not succeed in killing themselves. That women’s attempted suicides are not “real.” That men were more brave and skillful for using guns to end their lives and that women were attention-whores for not choosing a better “weapon.” In fact, of all the methods of suicide mentioned, only guns can truly be called a “weapon.” Using a weapon (gun) seems to be the ideal method of suicide for the men I conversed with on Facebook.
Of course, I have no inkling of those men’s knowledge of suicide and attempted suicide, but I would be willing to bet that it was largely theoretical. There was no indication that it was more than theoretical to them – that they had lost friends or family to suicide or contemplated it themselves. Nowhere did they acknowledge the pain that leads to attempted and completed suicides. It almost sounded like a game, one that the men were winning.
Lately, there have been calls for more focus on men’s mental health – letting them know that they can express emotions, suffer depression, seek help. That’s good and necessary. But it largely addresses men who have mental health issues.
It seems to me that there is also a need for men to be educated on other aspects of mental health as well. In fact, everyone needs to be educated about problems such as suicide and suicidal ideation. Instead of quibbling over who’s “better” at completing suicide, there should be a nationwide conversation on a subject that’s been hidden and unspeakable for far too long.
Personally, I think that school health classes would be an ideal place to bring up the subject. And no, I don’t think that discussing suicide with students would “give them ideas.” Too many young people – even preteens – have contemplated or completed suicide. And many more have grown up knowing nothing about the problem or learning “facts” that are fallacious and harmful.
Schools might have many other chances to talk about suicide as well. For example, instead of romanticizing the suicides in Romeo and Juliet, teachers could emphasize how short-sighted and foolish they were not to seek other options rather than throwing away their lives needlessly.
All I know is that is if something isn’t done – and soon – the stereotypes around suicide will continue to prevail and people who are hurting won’t get the help they need.
Comments always welcome!