Male suicide: Men 3 times more likely to die than women

Male suicide: Men 3 times more likely to die than women

Calgary’s Greg Duhaney shares the story of his brother during Mental Health Week

By Jennifer Lee, CBC News    Posted: May 04, 2015

It is a moment that changed everything and it is etched in Greg Duhaney’s memory. He had just returned from a year-long trip to find his brother, Kevin, a very different young man.

“He was nonsensical, like he spoke almost fragmented. His thoughts didn’t string together logically. He had his eyes closed a lot. He looked like he was in pain in moments,” said Duhaney.

Kevin, 18, was an artist and normally a happy and very social person, according to Greg. But he had become angry and resentful.

“I describe it as … the first time he died because I didn’t recognize him,” recalled Greg. “I broke down and cried at the time, speaking to my fiancée about it because I felt that I’d lost him at that point.”

Although never diagnosed, Kevin struggled with mental health issues for years after that. Then, at age 33, Kevin took his own life.

“You know, telling my mom at the time was one of the most haunting memories for me because she didn’t sound human when I made the call,” recalled Greg. “She was crying, wailing uncontrollably.”

Suicide highest among middle-aged men

It’s a dark reality plaguing families in Alberta, and across the country. Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. The highest number of suicides occur in men between the ages of 40 and 60.


But the phenomenon has largely slipped under the radar, according to Robert Olson, librarian and writer with the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

“I don’t think there’s an awareness that this is occurring,” Olson said. “The focus … by the mass media [is] on teen suicide, and many have the view that that’s where the bulk of suicides are occurring when in fact it isn’t. It’s with middle-aged men.”

We’re raised to take stressors in stride, to suck it up, take it like a man.

– Robert Olson, Centre for Suicide Prevention

Olson believes the high rate of male suicide has a lot to do with how boys are socialized.

“We’re raised to take stressors in stride, to suck it up, take it like a man,” said Olson. “It prevents a lot of men who are in distress …  to seek the help that they so drastically need.”

Stigma stops men from seeking help

Cindy Negrello, director of Client Services with the Canadian Mental Health Association, agrees many men are still confined by expectations that they shouldn’t discuss their feelings.

“They don’t go to their doctors and talk about,…  ‘I’m feeling depressed.’ They talk more about some of the physical symptoms: digestive issues, chronic pain, headaches. But they won’t go and say to their doctor, ‘I’m feeling really out of sorts,'” said Negrello.

It’s been three years since Greg lost his brother. Looking back, he sees how the stigma impacted his brother’s struggles.

“It was a constant fight for him to admit it,” Greg said. “He may have sought the support he needed if the stigma wasn’t so present to himself.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association is hoping to break down many of those barriers, and encourage more people to seek help, with a focus on men and boys during Mental Health Week this week.

2011 Canada 3,728 suicides 2,781 male

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