Are we on the edge of a precipice?
Or already over the cliff and in freefall?
Did you know male suicide rates are nearly 4 times higher than those for females.
In the UK a man will take his life every 2 hours, or put another way in 1154 days, 13908 men will have died by their own hand!
In fact, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease and whilst the level of male suicides remains constant, in recent years the number of female suicides has halved.
This is a male problem and men are also twice as likely to become alcoholics than women.
A 10 Year Study
A 10 Year study has found that regular arguments between spouses, their children, the extended family and even the neighbours, can more than double the risk of an early death for men. Often because increased stress levels lead to the misuse of alcohol, amongst other things.
But suicide is a wholly preventable death!
Nurture or Nature?
One-in-5 of us suffer from suicidal thoughts according to an NHS digital survey, but why do far greater numbers of men choose to act on these?
The world can be a dark place and there’s an awful lot of pressure on both sexes, with the toxic effects of Instagram and other social media platforms to have the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect life.
The pressure is on us to be continually on show in all areas of our life and not all of us are strong or minded enough to ignore it.
Maybe it’s biologically determined that men take their own lives?
I tend to think not and that it’s more likely to be cultural, and a culturalism that pertains not only to the UK, but is in fact axiomatic and prevails across much of the world. East & West, North & South!
In Japan, 79% of males surveyed by the authors of the recent New York Times best seller, ‘The Athena Doctrine’, admitted to being more than a tad dissatisfied with the conduct of men in their society.
Whilst data collected from a further 13 countries led the authors — John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio — to declare, “Feminine values are the operating system of the 21st century”
A Global Pandemic
Depression currently affects over 120 million people worldwide and the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 mental illness will be a major contributor to the burden of disease worldwide.
It’s a global pandemic!
The fact remains however that women are more likely to suffer from depression. They are also more likely to seek help when they encounter trouble though. They don’t tend to suffer in silence or bottle it up!
An Uncomfortable Truth
And maybe that’s the uncomfortable truth every man needs to face, as reported cases of eating disorders and self-harming are also on the increase, particularly among younger men.
Stereotypical masculine behaviour — keeping a stiff upper lip, treating it all as a bit of joke — just doesn’t cut it in today’s world. Not if you want to live out your 3 score years and 10.
Part of the recipe for a long and fruitful life is certainly not to ‘Man-up’ and just get on with it, but men and women think and communicate differently.
For instance, men talk to determine and achieve status — Women talk to determine and achieve connection.
For men, life is like a ladder and the better spots are high up — For women, life is a network and the better spots have greater connection.
But a very real difference is of course that men are very good at not talking about stuff and suffering in silence — particularly if its personal, embarrassing or concerns the medical i.e. both personal and embarrassing and it’s about the body in some way as well.
A Better World
The full title of Gerzema and D’Antonio’s book is, ‘The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And The Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future!’
And based on their research for the book, that included a survey of over 60,000 people world-wide, the authors found that ‘softer skills’ and those characteristics regarded as being more feminine — collaborating, listening, being caring, sharing, being more open and authentic — were regarded as absolutely vital to surviving and thriving in the modern world of motion and commotion!
Indeed, they concluded that the world would be a better place if, “Men thought more like women”!
Bringing It Back Home
I was talking with a Doctor friend and some other medical professionals recently who shared how they’d been using Mindfulness to great effect in helping young men to deal with the psychological effects of erectile dysfunction.
Effects that if not addressed can have a profoundly dark impact on self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing and allow dark and dangerous thoughts to take hold.
Over the past few years there’s been a marked shift in the medical world that’s led to an acceptance of Mindfulness as an effective alternative treatment for a range of acute and chronic conditions.
For example, in April 2015 the BMJ’s Research News led with the headline, ‘Mindfulness based therapy is as effective as anti-depressants in preventing depression relapse’, for a piece looking at a UK study previously reported in The Lancet.
Whilst in a recent piece for The Huffington Post, I looked at how the practice of Mindfulness was being used to help some of the estimated 4 million diabetics in the UK.
Of course, erectile dysfunction can affect men at any age, but it can be particularly traumatic if the patient is a young male and quite often the causes will be psychological rather than physiological.
A Vicious Circle
It will be about stuff going on in the mind, rather than any underlying medical condition, and coupled with the tendency a man can have to bottle things like this up, it can quickly become a vicious circle.
Eating away at the confidence, self-worth and self-esteem, and swiftly moving from being a performance anxiety to full-blown erectile dysfunction — and then the very foundations of the Shibboleth of Manhood are shaken to their core and you are not just looking over the precipice, but in danger of falling down!
Maybe Mindfulness — Mindful Breathing exercises — Understanding and taking a more Mindful approach to daily life, can help restore perspective, provide a counter balance and allow one’s sense of ‘self and inner agency to be regained.
Becoming aware of awareness, focusing on the present moment experience, and allowing one’s thoughts whether good or bad to just come and go, can provide a space between thought and action that can help give some objective distance.
I think the Doctor and her colleagues might be on to something, not least because Mindfulness is free, it requires no kit or fancy paraphernalia — Only You — And nobody need ever know you are doing it!
Apart from being on a mission to spread the #mindfulbutter around the world, I am all about making the complex less complex, the tough stuff not so tough and putting the unreachable within reach of everyone. I am author of ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful’available on Amazon and www.bookboon.com; the ‘Coffee & A Cup of Mindfulness’ and the ‘Mindful Hacks For Mindful Living & Mindful Working’ series. I am also a Contributing Author to The Huffington Post and a Contributing Writer to Thrive Global. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow the continuing journey Uncovering Mindfulness on Twitter @TheMindfulBook and at @Paul_Mudd