We need to talk about male suicide | Steph Slack | TEDxFolkestone

We need to talk about male suicide | Steph Slack | TEDxFolkestone

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: David DeRuwe Did you know that
by the end of this event, three men in the UK
will have died by suicide? I can still remember exactly where I was when my dad called me to tell me
that they’d found my uncle. He had taken his life, and it had taken three weeks
to find his body. Richard was 47. He was a doctor, super smart,
creative, autistic, he spoke new languages with ease,
he played and wrote music and he understood science and math
like no one else I knew. He was the kind of kid
you’d really hate at school, right? He saved people’s lives for a living, and yet, he decided to take his own. I’d like to take you back to 2010. I was at my new flat in Brighton,
having dinner with a friend, about to start my third year
of university, when my dad calls me to tell me
that they’d found my uncle. That feeling, that sinking feeling in your stomach
when your heart drops all the way down, and all you can think is, “What could I have done
to stop that from happening?” that feeling is not something
I wish anyone ever has to experience. Men are facing a crisis. How many men do you think
die by suicide each day in the UK? Have a guess. Raise your hand
if you think it’s under five. Raise your hands. Under five? Under 10? It’s 12. That’s one man every two hours. While we’re all enjoying our day, we’re going to lose 12 men
to suicide today. In my work, we talk a lot about the fact
that 76% of all suicides are male and that this silent killer is claiming
the lives of more men under 45 than anything else. And I can’t help but find myself
asking, “Why is that?” Doesn’t that trouble you? Because it troubles me. These are our brothers, fathers,
uncles, partners, sons – these are our friends, and they decide to die. I think there are some hard questions
we need to ask about male suicide. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong
with men having suicidal thoughts, but is there something wrong with how
we react to suicide being thought about? Let me explain. We’ll all die at one point
or another, right? Our bodies will fail us,
and we’ll die of disease or old age. Or we’ll have our lives taken from us,
maybe in a tragic accident. So, isn’t it perfectly normal to consider being in control
of our own death? Yes, suicide is intentional, but does that automatically make it wrong? I believe suicide is preventable, and I believe we should do
everything in our power to prevent it, but I also believe
there’s nothing inherently wrong in thinking about our own death. I’ve considered what it’s like to die. I’d like to ask you all
to close your eyes just for a minute. I promise nothing scary will happen
if you close your eyes. Now raise your hands
if you’ve ever had a really bad day that’s left you feeling
maybe stressed or upset. Okay. Keep your eyes closed
and keep your hands raised if that bad day or bad week or bad month has ever led you
to think about harming yourself or taking your own life. Thank you; put your hands down
and then open your eyes. That was about half of this room. I invite you to consider
what might be different if we didn’t see having
suicidal thoughts as wrong, and what that might mean for the men
in our lives thinking of suicide. Let’s go back to my uncle Richard. For most of his life, he experienced
what was most likely bipolar, and he’d had suicidal thoughts
on more than one occasion. In fact, six years before his death,
he attempted to take his life. The sad fact was
that Richard lived in a time where suicide wasn’t considered
something that you spoke about. It was swept under the carpet
and a cause of shame amongst families. There was something wrong with it. I mean, it was only in 1961
that we stopped making suicide a crime. Richard’s parents were medics –
an anesthetist and a nurse – and they didn’t understand suicide either. They didn’t think that it was real, and I think they were probably in denial
about what was happening with Richard. What happened to my uncle
isn’t my grandparents’ fault. Suicide is complex and rarely
attributed to any one factor. But, when I reflect
on Richard’s experience and on how we still struggle
to speak about suicide today, nothing’s really changed. We still struggle to talk about it. We label it as abnormal or unusual, and we make men wrong
for having suicidal thoughts. We say that they’re unwell,
or that they need to get better. And because we think of it this way, it stops us from being able
to talk about it, and we stay silent instead. And suicide remains
shrouded in this stigma. That stigma is only perpetuated by irresponsible
and sensationalized journalism that happens in the cases
of celebrity suicide. Just look at some of the reporting
around Anthony Bourdain’s recent death. When I was thinking about
how best to explain this point, it made me think about
sex and sex education. Stick with me, okay? (Chuckles) It’s really uncomfortable for us
to talk to kids about sex. It’s so tempting to think if we don’t talk about it,
it won’t happen, our kids won’t have sex. But we know that teenage pregnancy
and STIs are the risks if we don’t have that conversation, and we take those risks seriously. We introduced sex education into schools, and it’s now compulsory across the UK. And, I mean, it’s far from perfect, but what it has been shown to do is to improve positive attitudes
towards safe sex, to delay sex and to reduce teenage pregnancy
when used alongside other methods. With suicide, we know it’s a myth that talking about it will plant
that idea in someone’s head. And if suicide is claiming the lives
of more men under 45 than anything else, isn’t it time we just start accepting that suicidal thoughts
are something that happen, and instead start talking openly
and responsibly about it? I don’t think there’s anything wrong
with men having suicidal thoughts. But perhaps there is something wrong
with our expectations of men in society that lead them to have those thoughts. Let’s think about that. What does it mean to be masculine? What does it mean to be a man? Society tells us men should
be strong, dependable, and able to provide for their family. There’s very little research
into the reasons why men suicide, but the recent research that does exist speaks about how men’s high suicide rates
are linked to risk factors such as history
of being abused as a child, single status or relationship breakdown, and financial difficulty or unemployment. So that means that if you’re a man
and you’ve had a troubled childhood, you’re still searching for the one
or you’re worried about money, you’re at risk of suicide! How many of us know men in that situation? I mean, I’ve definitely
just described Richard, and I’ve probably described
half of millennial men in the UK. Unsurprisingly, these risk factors are linked to those
traditional notions of masculinity, of being strong, dependable,
and able to provide for your family. It seems as though when men feel
they can’t meet those expectations, they make themselves wrong for that. The research backs this up too. Just last year, there was a paper
confirming that there is a link between men feeling unable to fulfill the stereotypical
characteristics of masculinity and suicidal thoughts. Now, I imagine a lot of us in this room
don’t agree with those stereotypes, but some of us probably do,
or at least know someone who does. How many of us have been guilty of saying
“Man up!” at some point in our lives? I know I have. The conversation is starting to change. There are great campaigns
like BBC Three’s Real Men Do Cry and CALM’s L’eau de Chris, that are trying to shift those perceptions
of men and masculinity and encourage them
to be more open and vulnerable. But is it just men who are perpetuating
these outdated stereotypes of what it means to be a man and making themselves wrong for that? I don’t think so. I’d like us to consider
what our role is as women. Just last month, I was chatting
to a female friend of mine who described the guy she was dating
as “a sponge” and “too sensitive” because he opened up to her about some of the anxieties
he was facing in the relationship and how that was
making him feel vulnerable. I cannot begin to describe
the look I see on some women’s faces when I speak about how men I know
have broken down in tears in front of me. It’s somewhere between
discomfort and disdain. Men are already making themselves wrong for not living up
to these masculine ideals of being strong, dependable,
and able to provide for their families. They’re already
shaming themselves for that. But we’re compounding the problem
by making them wrong and shaming them for demonstrating
those open and vulnerable behaviors that we say we want them to show us. And we’re making them wrong for breaking out
of these rigid stereotypes and for just being fully human. To the women in the room, I’m not saying that male suicide
is our responsibility. I absolutely acknowledge that men have a huge role to play
in breaking down these stereotypes. But as a woman, I can only speak
to my experience and how I do see our role. What I’m inviting all of us to do,
regardless of our gender, is to reconsider the expectations
that we have of men in society and reconsider how we view men who have the courage
to show us their vulnerability. I’m inviting us to ask the men
in our lives how they’re really doing and if they’re struggling with anything
they haven’t told us about. And can we think about
how we respond to that? How we might choose
to empathize with their pain? Can we hold space for men
and listen to them, without trying to fix things, tell them that we love them and that it’s okay for them
to feel however they’re feeling? I’d like to tell you
about another guy I know. He’s a really good friend of mine;
I used to work with him, actually. His name’s Billy – he’s super smart, he’s genuine, authentic, kind, generous – he’s just the kind of guy
you really want to spend time with. So, imagine how I felt when Billy called me at 11:30 a.m.
on a Friday morning, three years ago, to tell that he’d spent
the night in hospital because the night before,
he’d tried to take his own life. He was 24. You’re probably thinking I felt shocked, panicked, uncomfortable. Actually, I felt honored. I felt honored that Billy felt
that he could talk to me about his suicide attempt
and how he’d been feeling. I thought back to my uncle, and I knew that I had a chance
to respond differently to Billy. I met him with compassion
and understanding, and a safe space to talk about
how he was feeling, without judgment. I didn’t make him wrong
for feeling the way that he felt or for attempting to take his life. I didn’t try to label him as suicidal
or as someone who needed to get better. I simply gave him a space
to talk about whatever he needed to. I saw what he told me
as incredibly courageous, and not something
he should ever be ashamed of. I can’t help but wonder
if this can make a difference. When I reflect on how my response
to Billy was entirely different to the response my uncle used to receive
when he spoke about suicide, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we had different expectations
of men in society, if we had a different reaction to men who have the courage
to show us their vulnerability, and a different reaction to men
who have suicidal thoughts. Would men feel differently about suicide? I don’t have the answers, but I am inviting you
to consider the questions. Because I don’t believe there is anything
wrong with men having suicidal thoughts, but perhaps there is something wrong
with how we react to that and our expectations of men in society. So, what would happen if we all
have the courage to go home tonight and have conversations
with the men in our lives about how they’re feeling
and what they’re thinking, including their suicidal thoughts? Yeah, it’s going to be uncomfortable, I get that, but we do it with sex! Every parent dreads having
that conversation with their kids about how babies are made. But we know it’s important
to keep our kids safe, so we do it anyway,
no matter how uncomfortable we feel. I wish I could have had
a conversation with my uncle like the one I had with Billy. I wish I could have told him, “There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with how
you’re feeling or what you’re thinking. It’s okay. I’m here to listen to whatever
you need to say or talk about because your feelings are important. You’re important, and you don’t have to do this alone.” Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

63 thoughts on “We need to talk about male suicide | Steph Slack | TEDxFolkestone”

  1. Death is part of life. The people that have a problem with suicide are the people left to ask why it happened. Almost always its selfish thoughts. What will I do without this person? Why wasn't I enough to keep this person from taking their own life?
    Its nice that she cares. Maybe her empathy and compassion will have an effect somewhere down the line. Probably not though. I think a talk about suicide in general is more important than just suicide in men.

  2. The entire comment section is heart-breaking. My heart goes out to any man who feels likes this. Suffering in this life, doesnt discriminate between men and women – people need to realise that. Every man out there is precious; I implore any man going through depression and suicidal thoughts, to let yourself know that you are valuable!

  3. This is why i hate women, and how you must be "a strong man", they want men to be money machines without emotion

  4. A very loving talk – but you can't talk openly about an intention to commit suicide if you really mean it, for fear that someone will try to stop you.

  5. This is such an amazing and important– POWERFUL and powerfully needed message for everyone that listened and everyone who won't ever get the chance (for the saddest reasons, and because of the gem it is as a man, to have an awesome woman stand up 'for me', especially in the emotional ways that she does. God, that broke my heart for her, for others, and personally. I never would have thought it, nor how much I needed to hear it, but when she said "it's okay to think suicidal thoughts" and began working to remove the stigma after already reaching her heart out to men in a way that we (and especially those that NEED and sadly needed to hear this…we don't otherwise think, hear, or feel).

    The same way I believe as a man that important part of my life is to stand up for and in the way I can for women and women's issues, this is a very real men's issue, I've long been broken hearted it's usually our biggest killer like 18-near 50.. I knew that in history and today (not in a way to diminish the other genders' roles) women's rights and everyday life, issues, etc…

    Most men are on that side and vocal, maybe even more easily than they would or could for what are real men's issues, especially those that stem from unbalanced gender roles / rights, and especially our emotional needs, past trauma, current suffering. And it just leads to compounding shame.

    It really felt important to me and to any who hear this speech every minute, but it never crossed my mind that I wasn't "just feeling like giving up" "WHEN/BECAUSE I'm so weak, or broken, worthless as a being the world values for what I do over who I am or my 'being'. It compounds, circular, she is right that there is no shame or judgement or sin or 'wrong' in feeling at the end of your rope and thinking dark thoughts. That's an important hook to break that thought cycle I never noticed, nor did I feel how significant it could be in the smallest ways (even in the intro) just having her stand up and fight for issues the way I hope and have seen the best success in women's issues yesterday and today through combined teamwork of both unique genders and roles in our societies and families.

  6. Damn, here i thought we were going to talk about what causes male suicide… instead it turned into a PC attack on masculinity and what it is to be a man, because today's society doesn't agree with it…. too bad, so close.

  7. When the media attacks white males all day long for decades, and blames them for everything wrong with the world, don’t be surprised when some of them lose the will to live.

  8. I'm a 38 year old man that has still never been married and has no children. I have wanted to settle down since I was 22. I NEVER went through a time when I just went out and partied or slept around. Now men that are younger than me have both gotten to do that AND are now settled down with a wife and children. This all eats at me every single day, why can't love happen for me? I've thought about suicide but I've never considered it. Every other area of my life is good except this. Thankfully I am NOT suicidal. I am however someone that doesn't fear death, and does not value my own life as much as I would if I had found love by now. Whenever I read a story about half a married couple passing away my first thought is why am I always spared? I have no one that will miss me when I'm gone. I have no children I am leaving behind. Why did a husband, wife, mother or father die when I could have? Most of the time I am content, but every so often I let the loneliness get the better of me and feel like this (like right now). So while I may not be suicidal I definitely wish I valued my life more.

  9. Suicide is wrong. Its a very selfish act. I agree it ought to be talked abaut, but i do think its wrong. It can cause a lot of pain for the family.

  10. Is this about suicide or how people feel about suicide. Guys there is more power in surviving and completely abstaining from what others "think" what you should be doing. You have every right to drag people down to hole you feel others boxed you into!

  11. Ima dude that has felt suicidal a lot so I really get the comment section. We really can just tough it out though guys. You do it everyday. Monitor what you do who you spend time with don’t let yourself get that low again. Don’t get too deep any connections that could really harm you emotionally in the future. Let people make commitments to you but rarely reciprocate with words only with well intention actions.

  12. Deuteronomy 21:23 (DRB). His body shall not remain upon the tree, but shall
    be buried the same day: for he is accursed of God that hangeth on a tree: &
    thou shalt not defile thy land, which the Lord thy God shall give thee in possession.

  13. It’s strange knowing how I’ll die. It’s a fight that I battle every day. I call it the good fight. I just know it’ll catch up to me eventually. Unless tragedy takes me first. I’ll walk that line.

  14. Speaker: "Innate masculinity doesn't have a meaningful place in society. Let's ignore that and blame innate masculinity for hurting men. Oughta be more like women if they wanna not die."

    Don't wanna hate too hard on this speaker, at least she cares. But her solutions are twisted. Men need to be encouraged toward healthy masculinity, not male femininity. To steal a quote (paraphrased): "masculinity is like electricity: it needs a conduit. With one, it provides incredible power. Without one it just blows up all over everyone"

  15. Hi, I'm a 38 year old male and two of my uncles have committed suicide, so I'm assuming it runs in the family.

    That said, I see a lot of whining in these comments, and partially disagree with Steph. I'm not saying "men should be men!" rather, I am saying that many of us are lacking in one key element that would ultimately prevent many of the sad deaths: personal responsibility. If life feels totally unfair, take responsibility for it. If you feel like you aren't providing value to those in your life, or society as a whole, take responsibility for it. In an endless cycle of self deprecating substance abuse or binge eating? You guessed it, take responsibility for it. No one's going to save you if you aren't willing to try to save yourself, and that hot girl you've been eyeing doesn't want to be your Mom v.2; she wants someone who can help her be Mom v.1, and that means a person who doesn't crumble at the faintest sign of adversity. Trust me, I've been that guy; the whiner, the victim, the leech, the guy who'd rather complain than take responsibility for where he's at and take action. So do some pushups, read some books to sharpen your mind, eat a salad, become someone to be proud of. To be human is to strive to be more than who you are. ,.;'"';.,

  16. “Only women, children and dogs are loved unconditionally. A man is only loved under the condition that he provide something.” — Chris Rock

  17. im not facing a crisis, im fine. men do not have a suicide problem. we have a education problem. educated societies have fewer problems.

  18. Go on Instagram or any social media. Tinder even. See how many people treat the man well compared to the woman. A girl post a picture of herself, other women say "you go queen!" Etc. Your lucky if your friends dont jokingly insult you if you're a man. The way people treat men compared to women is very real. Dont take this for granted, women are by far better treated than men in American society. But, in my opinion its mens fault. We arent brothers in this country, it's a bunch of hate jealousy and bullsh. We need to change.

  19. Ignore the subtle exclusion of the less fortunate of us, by society. Avoid the rise of feminism, of the discriminatory legal system, of inverse sexism and a toxic capitalism that basically decimates the male's role in society. Close your eyes to all, but the end result. And then try to raise awareness in women. I remain unconvinced.

  20. women have been coddled and cared for their entire lives since the beginning of society. now a days women are contributing much more than ever before, but instead of spreading the comfort that they don't require anymore to men, they keep it all and demand we give them more whilst ignoring all of our plight. life is life is life.

  21. The media puts too high expectation on all people in the consumer society. They suggest that you are allowed to feel good if you own everything you can show to others you have well paying job, nice gf or wife, nice car, big fancy house, you have to look like the models, and people really believe it, so they start to push others too even family members to this direction, because everybody start to see these examples as standard. So people who believe it, they won't ever feel satisfaction and peace anymore with themselves, because they start to feel that they are still not good enough.

    And here we have the feminism that says women are equal to men, still what women do? They still expect that men should be richer, providing the money and well being to the family, women still don't do hard work and so on… where is the so called equality then? This "modern" liberal society is a pure cancer of peoples now.

  22. As an 18 year old male with depression I know for a fact that society doesn't care about Men. When I say society I predominately mean Women. I've witnessed the Judaical system first hand and can see the blatant Male discriminatory. Women will gladly use their own children as pawns in order to get what they want, money… They don't care for anyone other than themselves. This is predominately biological due to the fact Women hold the baby. Not to mention 1 man can impregnate 10 Women consistently. From a biological POV this make sense. We can now see this once we've artificially planted Women into political positions, when they themselves never legitimately earned the position. They've bricked our society in what they vote on as they predominately think with Emotion and Feelings. They don't think long term thus they'll ruin their children's lives in order to get resources in the form of money. 75% of Women voted for the Welfare state along with the gender quota.

    This will probably be my last post, call me a doomer and or whatever but I see no point into helping a society that despises me and bashes me. I've witnessed this first hand as stated prior and I might aswell put myself through 1-30 seconds of physical pain in order to cure lifelong mental torment. Well worth the trade off.

    I was told Women were stronger, smarter and all round better than Men, so with that said they can pick up what we left off :). However, this wouldn't be bad if it were true. For every female genius there is 20-25 male geniuses. You can clearly see the IQ differences between Men and Women and when averaged out you can see Men score 5-10 points higher in IQ compared to Women. I feel sorry for our future generation in what they're going to have to endure.

    The West is a sinking ship with Women propelling us to the bottom of the ocean. Men are the main ones who keep society up and running, but the moment you demonise this in order to pander to the needs of and behaviours of Women you no longer have a functioning society. Thus you end up at square one due to nature and the biological roles of Men and Women start to take place once again. It's too late to correct society and turn it around to what it once was prior. A societal collapse will be the only correction to our problem which will inevitably happen but not within our lifetimes I'd assume. Definitely not in my lifetime.

  23. Let us men and boys band together, arm up, gear up, exit society and Live in the wild. Let society take care of itself without us. We can live off the land and form communities. The modern world is very very unnatural. God intended us to live in harmony with nature, each other and him but Modern society is in complete contrast to all of this. Don't let women (or others) live in these communities unless they act right and let things revert to the natural ancient ways. There will be infiltrators and saboteurs that eventually come along and they must be weeded out before they can subvert or corrupt and do not make the mistake of rebuilding modern society or letting women back in power.

  24. Yes it's fair to say women's issues are considered more important but that's because the climb for equality is much greater. But don't make women the enemy, that isn't going to endear anyone. It's everyone's responsibility. Call out men and women for being sexist. Catcalling is sexist, but so is expecting "Your Man" to always be the stoic one. Just like the reasons for MeToo I don't see it changing soon. How we treat boys, girls, men and women have become entrenched over thousands of years.

  25. i never thought of suicide but it does get very depressing when you know you might not be able to live up to your families expectations of you.

  26. What we do about suicide: talk about it. Tell people to change the aspects that make them this way. Tell them to get help.
    What we dont do: help them to express themselves. Help them change these aspects. Help them find help.
    We tell people to do these things. But we never actually help them do these things. I can talk all day long about how i want to die and you know what happens when i get home? I feel vulnerable and i still want to die. I can take medicine for depression as prescribed and you know what happens? Start thinking why stop at taking 1. The problem is people talk about how they care. But no one ever shows that they actually care. You can tell me all day long you care, but you and i both know better. You only say it cause you feel obligated to. No one really cares. Not really. I could die tomorrow and everyone reading this comment right now would be none the wiser that it even happened. They dont care. They say they do. Theres a difference. Its more than talking about it.

  27. Went into the comment section to find some constructive opinions, all I see is a bunch of people blaming women for everything bad that's ever happened to them. Don't get me wrong, life can go very wrong and I get that it sucks but blaming half of the population whilst big majority of it is full of good people who don't harm anyone? Pathetic.

  28. As a man old enough to be the father of some of these other commenters, and as someone who has previously been where you are now, allow me to offer a bit of advice. The key to surviving, at least for me, was letting go of the idealized romantic relationship. It isn't the end of the world if a woman doesn't want you. It definitely FEELS like the end of the world if no woman wants you, but you keep beating a dead horse. Stop trying.

    Take a hard look at your life, and ask yourself what habits you engage in because those things are part of the real you, versus what habits you engage in in hopes of impressing a woman. Once you have identified those habits, abandon them. Just go do your own thing. To be fair, it takes a couple years to adjust, but once you do, all the other men slowly killing themselves in attempt to be "man enough" for a woman to accept him look insane.

  29. The women in this comment section are testimount to just how hard it is to be a man.
    "I'm a wonen and i care" she types on her phone to make herself feel better before she goes into town to make a night of hurting men.
    "I'm not lke that" she says, after 3 children to worthless felons and debt up to her eyeballs

  30. I made the mistake of being emotionally open to a women i was dating once.

    What I got in return was a gaggle of drunk women in their 20's turning up on my front doorstep at midnight (including the women I thought cared about me) and literally pointing and laughing.

    Thats what women really think about emotionally open men.
    And I can be certain this women would have laughed along too.

  31. Men hope and compete for a loving woman. few men have such luck. So end of game. Women are different .. they need or want no man!

  32. The description says it all
    "Male*…*those that identify as male"
    Nope, thats literally women trying to ruin another male space, men can't even kill thenselves without a women injecting herself into the situation for pity points.

  33. Yeah, when it becomes a federal law that states all women at age 18 MUST sign up for the draft or face prison (among other problems), then I'll take videos like this, and the idiots who speak on behalf of men (women like this) seriously.

  34. Compounding the problem is the fact that men do NOT have anywhere to go when they need help. Women have so many places that are specifically for them(but not men) that can get them back up and going well no matter what problem they have. Even domestic abuse shelters, women have so many we lost count, yet there is not one on the whole planet for men.(that is the fault of the "Deluth Model" of domestic abuse which states that it is always the woman who is the victim even tho statistically it's more like 50/50)

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