Anyone can feel lonely or grieved by events surrounding them. Loneliness can lead to deep anxiety and depression. While depression affects both sexes, it’s increasing in men and boys more than ever. In this article, we’ll explore how you can help those affected by suicidal thoughts and male suicide.
Recently a segment on Australian television addressed male suicide. Guys are taking their own lives at an alarming rate. It’s become such an epidemic that it’s the leading cause of death among men between the ages of 15-44.
This story is not uncommon or foreign to me. I became a male suicide attempt statistic. I believed that the only way to end the pain was to take my life. I came to a point where I had lost all hope and felt a deep void pulling me down. Emotionless, drained of all tears, I thought the only option was to seek an end. I write this not as a self-pity thing, but as a man taking ownership of what happened, and in some way end the stigma of staying silent.
My story began in my youth. As I have mentioned here before, I came from an extremely broken and poverty stricken family. Learning to forgive has been a major issue for me. I suffered years of sexual and physical abuse. This in turn affected my school years and my ability to make and keep friends. I was left emasculated and emotionally scarred. Each time someone would talk about their past or ask me questions about mine, I would cringe and look back at this wound which haunted me. I longed to move on, but the black dog of depression lingered.
After my suicide attempt, there I knelt, trembling, choking through those silent tears streaming down my face. I hoped for someone, or God to relieve the pain, remove the hurt, help rid me of loneliness. Something pulled me back from the brink that night, and as a man of faith, I believed it to be God.
The reason I write such a sober account is that depression is something that can affect every man at any stage in their life. Nobody is immune to it. Men can feel sad, temperamental, and low. While it is true that some people don’t experience these things as much as others, some men feel these emotions deeply and drawn out over days, weeks, months and sometimes longer. As much as we’d like to conceal any pain we feel, this can only increase its effects.
Author C.S. Lewis put it best when he said,
Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’”
I always think of those moments when a man walks into his doctor’s office. He tells the doctor what is wrong and the doctor prescribes something for the pain, or binds up any visible wounds. The issue on hand is dealt with and the patient is cared for, because the issue was spoken about and dealt with. Mental health is no different. The pain may not be visible, but the symptoms are felt. People must be willing to talk about it with no fear or shame, because as Lewis noted, “concealing mental pain only increases the burden.”
There are three practical ways we can help people who go through those periods of depression. These can give clarity and hope when all seems to be the darkest.
The greatest thing that anyone can do is ask if someone is ok. The warning signs are sometimes noticeable. People can become withdrawn, isolated, silent. The extreme opposite of these actions can also be true. It is always reassuring when the question is asked, “Are you ok?” Three simple words, yet they can have a profound effect in the life of the person suffering.
The greatest tool in a conversation is not the mouth that speaks, but the ears that listen. Talking with someone can be powerful, but the healing that takes place when someone listens is immeasurable. How can we be effective listeners to those that are struggling?
Be present. Simply turning off your phone and every device to avoid distractions is a great start. It does someone a disservice when they are pouring out their heart, but the listener is more distracted by messages or their social media. Turn off everything and engage with the person speaking.
Be focused. Eye contact, and body language goes a long way. A nod, a smile, showing visible signs that you are listening to what they are saying can have ramifications that have lasting results.
Be empathetic. While sympathy is feeling emotion toward the other person, empathy can be defined as stepping into that place of compassion, acknowledging the feelings they have in that situation, to help alleviate or shoulder the pain so that they do not have to suffer alone.
The greatest thing anyone can do is lead people toward others that can help. Asking and listening are vital steps, but helping someone at their lowest is the greatest act of love anyone can offer. Helping can come in many ways, you can offer to check in with them and be a willing ear to listen through their struggles. This is a great act of brotherly love, but helping a brother find organizations and counseling services can be a greater act:
In the United Kingdom
In the United States
Wherever you are, consult your Medical Practitioner. Reach out to family, friends, and anyone that will listen. It is better to talk about it than to suffer in silence.
Sadly, like many men, I thought the only way to fix things was to end things. I cried out for my pain to be attended to by anyone that would help. Instead of seeking words of peace, and finding genuine help, I allowed bitterness to feed my hurt. The result was that my pain became an open wound that festered.
The greatest act of service anyone can do for their fellow man is reach out in love and ask that simple question, “Are you ok?” The greatest thing any man can do for themselves is admit that “It is ok not to be ok!”
Give yourself permission to rely on family, friends, and your faith for reassurance in those times of trouble, and it is there that love can be found. It stands with you to help you endure all things. You do not have to suffer in silence.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV