According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 33,000 people commit suicide in the United States every year. Also, an estimated 25 attempted suicides occur for each successful suicide death. Those who survive attempted suicides live to nurse serious physical injuries in addition to mental problems including depression. Suicide is by far one of the major preventable health problems that has widespread impact in medical and labor costs to a tune of $30 billion per year. This is figure does not take into account the emotional toll on friends and families which is certainly enormous.
While more women attempt suicide than men, men are much more likely to actually commit suicide.
The Hidden Epidemic
Suicide cases among the middle-aged men are considered a hidden epidemic. Previously, younger men were the ones who were at a higher risk compared to older ones, but this is changing fast with men in the prime life being the biggest area of concern as in suicide prevention and management. According to research, the particular category of middle-aged men prone to suicide is that comprising people in the lower socio-economic strata. This is probably due to feelings of underachievement and worthlessness. The middle-aged men have for long been excluded in the suicide public awareness campaigns and screening programs and as such have grown to be vulnerable.
Midlife Introspection and Assessment
Most middle-aged men are keen in assessing their own achievements, position, and general life welfare relative to their career, social relationships and family. This heightened awareness of self-progression has been linked with lots of problems including depression, mental health problems, alcoholism, and suicide. This is particularly the case where such assessments are subjectively found to be negative.
Masculinity is a social construct that tends to impede mental and physical health growth for men particularly those in the middle age. Although masculinity has a cultural, historical, and gender connotation, it is continuously being constructed and deconstructed relative to life events, ethnicity, social context, class, and age. One form of masculinity known as hegemonic masculinity carries the aspiration of men against which they measure themselves in relation to other masculine and feminine characteristics. People subscribing to this kind of masculinity strive for power, are aggressive, dominant, independent, and competitive. A higher engagement in risk behavior and decreased help-seeking are the two crucial health damaging manifestations that are likely to propel men towards suicidal behavior.
Another type of masculinity which has also been associated with a fair share of suicidal behaviors is marginalized masculinity. This type of masculinity is linked with gender relations experienced by middle-aged men in the lower socio-economic strata.
Masculinity endorses and fosters power and emotional control. Depression on the other hand is closely associated with a sense of powerlessness and lack of emotional control. Because men are reluctant in expressing their emotions, they may deny or conceal distress thereby not seeking and getting the help they need. Most of the middle-aged men conceptualize suicide as a pathway to regaining control when confronted with a sense of powerlessness.
Identity and Coping Skills
Most middle-aged men are constantly bombarded by cultural changes, societal transformations, and socio-economic factors that largely influence and shape their experiences, identities, emotions, relationships. These transformations have been seen to contribute significantly to the context of suicidal behavior seen in middle-aged men.
The society seems to have moved on as far as the traditional masculinity role is concerned but the middle-aged men are not as prepared to deal with the changes happening to their roles in society. They are literally part of a buffer generation which is caught in between two generations; the post-war generation (me) and the pre-war (silent) generation. As a result of this, they feel trapped and the best way to reclaim their own masculinity is by committing suicide.