White middle aged men now account for 70% of suicide deaths each year since 2015 and it has been increasing since 1999.
Why is this happening? What is driving men to commit this horrible act. Yes, women still attempt suicide more often, but men are more successful at actually doing it. And there is also the slow suicide of drug use and alcoholism which does not reflect in these numbers, but can certainly lead to death.
There certainly appears to be an economic and work related factor to this rise in suicide. White men without higher education have been losing their identity, jobs and status in our society. They have begun to feel more marginalized and out of place. The swift technological changes in our world has caused great dislocation and confusion.
An interesting side statistic might be the rate of suicide among white male Trump supporters. But I digress.
White men are losing their position and without education, they are not able to quickly adapt to our changing world. Many also have beliefs that they need to be strong, not complain, “suck it up, take the pain, be a man, and don’t whine and complain.” Without a mechanism to talk about their emotional pain and distress, where do they turn?
However, this certainly does not fully explain this great rise in suicide. Doing a cursory google search re factors involving the increase in the suicide rate, there are no easy answers as to why this is happening.
Here are a few factors that are most probably involved.
higher divorce rates leading to more social isolation
rapidly changing job market due to automation and rapid technological change
increase in drug use
increase in depression and feelings of dislocation
easy access to fire-arms (though this is certainly not a cause of suicide, and suicide can be accomplished through other means.)
What can we do as a society to address this growing concern? One idea, might be to look at societies where suicide is not increasing? A look at the data shows that African-American males showed a slight decrease in suicide rates and lower rates than white males. However, black males have a much higher rate of dying by homicide. There is also speculation that the suicide rates among black males may be lower due to mis-classifying and underreporting of suicide in this community.
Certain Caribbean countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Grenada have low suicide rates. I am not sure why the rates are lower in these countries. There are other countries in the Caribbean with higher rates such as Guyana. I am really not sure if this could be attributed to economic factors or other societal factors at play. I would love to hear from people who can shed some insight on these differing stats.
My belief is that we need to develop a new mindset re what it means to be a strong and well functioning human being. We really need each other and we need to be able to talk to one another in a deep and communicative way. We need new social supports that are real and tangible. Cyber communities are not enough to help us. Talk and face to face interaction is necessary for us to survive and thrive.
Please feel free to comment on this piece and let’s have a good discussion about how we can help one another.
f you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.