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Men’s Day 2023: Unearthing the crisis of male suicides

By Daniel Francis

On Sunday, November 19, we celebrate International Men’s Day. This year’s theme is Zero Male Suicides, a theme worth highlighting as male suicide rates have gradually increased in T&T.

From the information that I found online, the overall suicide rates have been on the gradual increase for the past five years and men make up roughly 80 per cent of those suicides – a concerning piece of information to say the least.

I remember a few years back, I met with an old school friend. He was a year below me in secondary school and I would say we were friendly. He looked as though he was going through some tough times.

We sat and chatted for a bit, and it was clear that he needed help. I extended some of my services and I also told him he should seek the help of a therapist. He seemed convinced at the time that the options I laid out were his best moves.

A few months passed, and I didn’t hear from him. I ran into him one day and he still looked like he was going through the wringer, but he said that his methods for treating himself were working wonders.

I was devastated to hear a few months later that he had taken his own life.

It is sad to say that this was not an isolated matter. Since his death, there have been at least three or four men with whom I have been well acquainted who chose the path to commit suicide. I believe it is worth dissecting what it is we as men may be experiencing that leads us to this position.

As young boys, we learn to put up barriers to protect our mental state so that we can be what we are expected to be: men. We feel like if we do not do this, we will be unable to climb the mountains that are in front of us.

We put up these barriers because experiences have taught us that when we express our feelings they can oftentimes be invalidated, and we internalise this to mean that we should simply bury these emotions and press on.

I remember as a child having these experiences. I wanted to express emotions that although natural, seemed taboo for boys. The first few times I let these emotions out, the emotions were discredited, and I was told to “toughen up”.

As a child what would you take this to mean than to try to ignore these emotions and move forward?

We continue to “toughen up” as we grow from boys to men. However, we have buried our emotions so much that we can’t express ourselves well. We experience immediate frustration when we feel these emotions that we have buried and we do what we have always done, bury them further and further.

But there is a price to all that we have buried. That toll is paid by moments when we cannot seem to take control of our reactions or behaviours. We’ve buried our emotions so deeply that we have essentially eliminated many healthy options that may be apparent to those around us.

We need to take more time to acknowledge what we have experienced, process those emotions that we have been burying and properly deal with them. If we don’t, we fall victim to the mental illnesses that often plague those who see self-harm as their only option out of their situations. Sometimes the best way to move forward is with help.

I once heard someone describe therapy as the following: you are in a boxing match, and you are exchanging blows with your opponent. Between rounds, you go to your corner and your coach is there. He has been observing your actions, noting what you have been doing well and what you have been doing poorly. He gives you advice on what you need to do to come out on top in the next round. The coach in this scenario is the therapist and sometimes this is the intervention you need.

Pray and speak to God to give you the courage to ask for help. Get the help if you need it.

As a community, we must also look out for those who we can see need help. Do not assume that they will get the help. Talk to their loved ones. Ask questions. Be the nuisance that encourages them to want help because they see your love. No male suicide takes all of us together putting in a concerted effort toward the men in our lives. Let us take the first few steps in making it a reality.

Daniel Francis is a millennial helping other millennials. He is a two-time author of the books The Millennial Mind and The Millennial Experience, and an entrepreneur. Over the past four years, he has served as a Personal Development Coach whose work targets Millennials and helps them tap into their full potential. He is also a Self-publishing coach and has guided hundreds on self-publishing their book successfully.

LinkedIn: Daniel Francis