At a presentation yesterday, I suggested that men don't like to talk about their personal issues as much as women might, particularly so when they may be overwhelmed and have suicidal thoughts.
It has long been my contention that men are not programmed to talk about such things, a legacy of our forebears.
In times gone by, men would hunt wild animals, go to battle, and do many other dangerous things out of a need to survive. We know from historical drawings that men would show themselves as conquerors despite the drawings suggesting that their 'enemy' was much larger than they were.
The inference being that men were afraid yet worked through that fear, they just never talked about their fear.
Ask a man if he goes to the doctor when he has an injury or is unwell, or if he rests to recuperate. Most will tell you that they don't, with a high number going for a run or to the gym just to confirm that they are injured or unwell. Again, a legacy of our ancestors from my readings.
In todays world, it has been my experience that men who struggle are often reluctant to talk about their personal issues for several reasons, the main one being they might be seen as weak, as a failure, of no longer being a 'man'.
It was suggested yesterday that it might also be a cultural issue - it is not part of our culture to talk about suicide and depression - or that it is a societal no-no to discuss suicide - let's keep it under the radar and not talk about it for whatever reason. This might be the case in some instances, however for me the problem is that men are reluctant to talk for the aforementioned reasons. We aren't programmed to talk in this way.
It is not perceived as 'manly' to show a weakness let alone talk about it.
As someone who struggled himself, I did not tell my family because I didn't want to trouble them. I didn't tell my friends because what would they think of me. I didn't tell my colleagues because I might lose my job. So, I told no one. And I hid my struggle for as long as I could.
Our irrational thoughts become rational when we are struggling. Unless you have been there yourself, you can never comprehend this explanation.
I wonder what would have happened to me if someone, another man perhaps, had come to me and said "Hey Lance, are you okay?" I probably would have answered, "Yes". Why, because I couldn't talk, it was as if my brain was programmed not to talk about this 'stuff'.
I wanted to hide away and wait for things to get better. They don't get better, they get worse.
I would like to think that if someone had pushed me further and said - "I am struggling myself, I just don't know who to talk to" - that I would have opened up to him or her. Maybe that's what we should do to help overcome this dilemma, whether it is a historical, a societal, or a cultural barrier.
I would like to think that if you see a man, or anyone for that matter, who appears to be struggling, that you would push them to talk. Make it okay for them to do so. How, by first sharing your story if you have one or by letting the struggling person know that it is safe to talk with you. Let them know that what they say will remain with you in confidence, provided of course that they aren't suicidal.
Let them know that they aren't weak, that they are normal, that they're just going through a bad patch and that there is a way out.
Suicidal thoughts are a natural process of the fight or flight response, it's another option of fleeing. Depression and suicide often go hand-in-hand, but not always. Suicidal thoughts may be an instant emotional reaction to an emotional situational.
Reach out, let's talk, let's break down these barriers.