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THE HEALTHY MAN / KRISTL I. BULURAN

When Personal Problems Lead Men to Suicide

September 28, 1998|KRISTL I. BULURAN

Recently, a very good friend of mine was killed in a car accident. The accident looked suspiciously like a suicide and, after much investigation by the police, was ruled as such.

My friend was only 24 years old.

If not for the evidence at the scene, I would have thought this completely implausible because he seemed to be of strong character, able to handle anything that came his way. But as we all know, even the strongest person can have problems and feel as if life is spiraling out of control.

While it is arguable whether men or women have higher rates of intent for suicide, it is well known that men have a much higher rate of completion of suicide than women. Men also tend to choose more lethal, violent means of suicide than women--such as a self-inflicted gunshot wounds or a car accident.

The causes that lead to suicide are often unknown to the survivors. Oftentimes, questions remain, even if a note was left.

Why do men kill themselves? Why did my friend kill himself? I will never know, but I believe much of the problem lies in the psychosocial factors that create differences between men and women--especially with regard to how we deal with problems in our lives. Our society teaches men to be strong, to be silent with emotional issues, to be problem-solvers, not problem-makers; in contrast, women are taught early on to be emotional, nurturing and open.

My friend was facing something that he felt he could not talk about--particularly with someone who could have potentially helped him.

That person doesn't have to be your parent, your brother or sister, your friend, your girlfriend, partner or even your wife. But it should be someone.

According to the Men's Health Network, men are far less likely to seek professional help for psychological counseling than women, primarily because men are taught to believe that therapy is "unmanly."

Furthermore, men are less likely than women to be diagnosed with psychological problems and more likely to be diagnosed as suffering from a simple case of stress. Thus, men are less likely to be referred for psychological help.

The general attitude when a man expresses that he is facing a problem is that he'll "get over it" or he'll "figure out a way."

I will always wonder what drove my friend to kill himself and what I could have done to perhaps sway his decision.

I remember once asking how he was doing, and he replied, "Oh, not too good, but it's no big deal."

Thinking that he did not want to talk about it, I said, "Well, whatever it is, I'm sure you'll figure it out. You always do."

Whatever it was, I wish I knew.

*

The Healthy Man runs every other Monday in Health.

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