5 Myths About Depression & Suicide That Make Asking For Mental Health Help Even Harder For Men

Photo: courtesy of the author
5 Myths About Depression & Suicide That Make Asking For Mental Health Help Even Harder For Men
Self, Health And Wellness

In the western world, men die by suicide at a rate of three to four times more than women do in the same countries.

In 2017, a staggering 7 out of 10 suicides in America were by white men. Clearly, depression in men is a serious issue, and mental health care needs to be more accessible to everybody, no matter their gender — without stigma.

Regardless of the total volume or the gender of people succumbing to their suicidal thoughts, suicide ;is an issue at a pandemic level.

But what could account for such a significant gender disparity? And what leads people to suicide in the first place?

It seems there are a lot of myths about suicide out there, particularly when it comes to men. And for me, this issue is personal.

In my early childhood, I was bullied relentlessly. And, as a direct result, I tried to take my life at the age of 15.

After my suicide attempt, I tried multiple forms of SSRI anti-depressants, saw various therapists and counselors for years, and still made little headway in my battle against my own mind.

After decades of depressive episodes, despite my life appearing to be good on paper, I eventually got to a place where I wanted to understand the roots of my intermittent depression (and repeated bouts of suicidal ideation) in a deeper way.

RELATED: How To Get Help For Suicidal Thoughts (Without Worrying What People Will Think)

It wasn’t until my late 20’s, during a particularly bad depressive episode, when I really started to dig in and get deep into understanding the factors that create depression, on a massive scale, for people.

In my research, I found out that many myths about suicide still reside in the minds of the majority of people in the western world.

Many people believe that depression is all in your head. In addition, a ;lot of these suicide myths are tied to myths about mascunlinity, such as the myth that it is inherently unmanly to be depressed (because depression equals sadness, and men aren't allowed to be sad).

And while I found several tools that have helped me to keep a clear head (which I will get into in a moment) and maintain my own mental health, I also think it's important to dispel some of the myths surrounding suicide and suicidal ideation first.

Here are 5 common myths about suicide and depression in men.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as the cultural and societal contributors to depression, suicide, and gender constructs are far too complex to ever fit into a short article, but these are some of the most problematic and wide spread issues facing us today.

1. Men aren't emotional.

One of the biggest contributing factors to the heightened male suicide rate is the pervasive myth that men simply aren’t emotional.

Societal narratives shape self-perception. If men consistently hear, throughout their lifetimes, that men aren’t emotional, then they will pay less nuanced attention to their internal worlds… and stress, hurt, fear, sadness, and other challenging emotions will be chronically subconsciously suppressed before they’re even recognized.

This myth deeply influences a man's ability to be proactive in caring for his mental health.

RELATED: Powerful Photos Of People Who've Considered Suicide Prove That Depression Looks All Sorts Of Ways

2. It is unmanly to ask for help.

Another myth is that the best, most confident, and attractive men are ones who don’t need anything from anyone.

In reality, no man is an island. No man ever achieved great success on his own, and no man ever felt safe, loved, and deeply nourished in life on his own.

We are a social species and we deeply need each other in order to thrive.

3. Suicidal ideation only affects those with a mental health condition.

Many people believe that thoughts of suicide only occur for people who are actively struggling with a mental health condition. When in truth, for anyone who has lived for a few decades, passing suicidal thoughts are extremely common, and should not be feared simply for occurring.

While suicidal ideation shouldn't be trivialized, nor should it be feared arbitrarily. If you have had thoughts of suicide at some point in your life, you are very, very normal.

4. Men don’t need people as much as women do.

A recent study confirmed what many people already sense to be true: women are more intimate and emotional with their friends and they place a higher level of value on their friendships than their male peers do.

But just because men tend to prioritize bonding over activities more than divulging vulnerable truths doesn't mean that they don't benefit from doing so.

Everyone benefits from feeling like people see and understand us. It is a deeply human need to want to feel like people have a sense of our internal reality and worldview. Men who are more prone to isolating do so out of habit and societal conditioning, not out of a fundamental lack of a need based off of their gender.

RELATED: What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? How To Prevent This Type Of Depression From Ruining Your Health

5. It is selfish to take your own life

One of the biggest misconceptions about suicide is that it is a highly selfish act.

Of course, there is a huge emotional wake left behind by the person's passing, but for someone to get to a place where they'd consider suicide as the best option, they will often be in an internal place of feeling like the people around them will genuinely be better off without them existing.

No matter how off-base this belief is in reality (and it most often is a distorted perception), it can feel like a very rational, and correct thought to the person who is having it.

Ultimately, suicide occurs when an individual's level of pain supersedes their perceived coping resources (with "perceived" being a key word).

It isn't about what level of resources the person has available to them, it's about the ones that they believe they have.

In reality, there could be dozens of people who would happily support the person who was suffering, or, be devastated if their friend were to take their own life. But in the mind of the person suffering, it could feel like there are only one or two people who would help them if asked, and/or care at all if they were gone.

The author at age 15

There are hundreds of things that people can do to stave off depressive episodes, and no singular set of protocols will work flawlessly for everyone.

Some experimentation will always be required for each individual to find their highest leverage combination of tools. But there are a few of the ones that can help the highest percentage of people, the highest percentage of the time.

RELATED: Why Men Who Cry Are Beautiful

Here are three ways to help guard yourself against suicidal ideation:

1. Seek out community.

When someone is in a state of depression, it is quite common that their ego has taken over to a large extent, and will make them want to isolate and ruminate endlessly. When in fact, one of the most helpful things that they could do is let themselves be surrounded by people and to engage with their community more deeply.

In other words, spend more time with people, even when it’s the last thing that you want to do. If you feel like it will require too much willpower to extend to them regularly, tell your closest, most trusted people that you are going through an especially rough time, and you need all of the time with friends/home cooked meals/hugs/shoulders to cry on that you can get.

And if you are in a place where you are especially struggling with extending to people and regularly asking for support, try committing to something that sets your social life on autopilot. You could join a weekly men's group, or join a common interest group (poker night, walking club, etc.) so that you are socially accountable to being around people on a regular basis.

2. Talk openly with safe, trustworthy people.

There is a false societal belief that says that talking about suicide will lead to it being more likely to happen. The opposite is true.

The more you can open up to people who care about you about what's really going on for you, the less alone you will feel.

People won't always know the perfect thing to say, but being able to share the reality of your inner world with someone will be beneficial.

3. If you are in a mental health crisis, enlist support in whatever ways are available to you

When someone is sinking deeper into a depressive state, there can be a progressive sense of drowning from the inside.

And it is absolutely imperative that, before your head goes under the water (metaphorically speaking), if you can send out a flare gun signal or two to those around you, it can do wonders to help you bounce back faster than you would otherwise.

Simply sending a text message to a couple of close friends just to say, “Hey, I’m really struggling right now. Are you available to come see me in the next few days? If so, I would really appreciate if.”

Once the level of your current struggle is on their radar, then you’ll be in a position to be able to receive their support, in whatever ways they are able to extend to you.

Simple things like eating healthy meals with healthy friends, going for a walk with someone who cares about you, or talking to a qualified counselor about your thoughts can move the needle in a surprisingly efficient way.

But this doesn’t be looked at in a one-and-done kind of way. Ideally you enlist the support of friends who can check in on you regularly, to make sure that you bounce back fully and are feeling like yourself again.

And, of course, if you ever feel you need more support, please reach out for help from a mental health professional. There are resources out there for you if you are willing to use them. And as someone who went from suicidal and isolated to self-loving and surrounded by love, I can promise you that healing and change are possible. It will take time, but it is possible.

I wish you the absolute best of luck in your journey.

RELATED: The Warning Sigh Of Suicidal Thoughts People Often Ignore, Explained By A Therapist Who Has Lived Through It

Relationship coach Jordan Gray helps people remove their emotional blocks, maintain thriving intimate relationships, and live a better life. You can see more of his writing at JordanGrayConsulting.

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If you are currently struggling, and don't know who to reach out to, please call the international suicide hotline and talk to someone at 1-800-273-8255.

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