Ever since I reported on the FABResearch food and addiction conference a few weeks ago, I have been listening rather more carefully to reports about mental health. My attention was therefore caught by a piece on the radio a few days ago (no doubt in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide) about the ever increasing numbers of suicides among men between the ages of 18 and 40.
This is a sad but relatively well known statistic. But what attracted my attention was the interview with a woman who had been a Samaritans volunteer for many years, who said that the vast majority of the calls that they receive are from women. Eh?… But the vast majority of suicides are young men.
The difference, she said, was that women talk about their situation and their feelings of desperation; young men don’t. Young men are naturally inclined to act, and often to act dramatically, as a way of expressing their feelings – not to talk about them. So, even though a young woman may go on actually to commit suicide, she is much more likely to call the Samaritans first and talk about what she has in mind to do, so there is at least some chance that she may be ‘talked down’. But for a young man, action – actually doing the deed – comes much more naturally and, if they are feeling desperate enough, is much more appealing than admitting the way the feel and talking about it.
Which only emphasises the vital importance of, if at all possible, talking, talking, talking. But sadly, the suicides of all too many young men come totally and devastatingly out of the blue. Because they cannot admit to how they are feeling they have hidden those feelings from everyone, and especially from their family – which means that talking has never even been given a chance.
So tragic though the death of famous and successful people such as Robin Williams may be, one can only hope that knowing that you are not the only one wanting to end your life and that rich, successful and famous people feel the same, might just go a little way to pushing a suicidal young man into seeking help before it is too late.