The world was left in shock at the beginning of June as news emerged of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Here was yet another high-profile, seemingly happy individual who decided that life was no longer worth living.
Experts warn that Bourdain is just one of many men whose suicides and preceding struggles with mental illness often go overlooked.
In the US, suicide rates for men are 3.5 times higher than women. However, men are a lot less likely to seek medical help or community support.
Experts believe one of the reasons why suicide is more prevalent among men than women is because men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Mental health just as critical as physical health
Despite Bourdain’s openness about his battle with depression and constant fight to stay sober, experts say his fame and fortune could have been hiding even deeper troubles.
Doctors say the tragedy of Bourdain’s death should serve as a wake-up call for men when it comes to looking after their mental health, highlighting that it’s just as critical as their physical health.
Another reason given by experts for why men are more likely to take their own lives is due to masculinity. Men feel less able and inclined to talk about issues that are affecting them, and this often leads to a profound sense of loneliness.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr Jonathan Gerkin, a University of North Carolina psychiatrist, said:
“Loneliness is such an attention-grabbing feeling, and if men can’t reflect and respond to that, they can get caught up in trying to eliminate those feelings by minimizing, acting macho, or acting out in dangerous ways,” including substance misuse.
“Acting out can be outward, or it can be self-directed, like taking one’s life,” Dr Gerkin added.
‘Talk to the men in your lives’
He said this reality faces men who are not lucky enough to encounter more acceptance, or were not raised in a family that that encouraged it.
By adulthood, many of the opportunities to talk about what’s happening to them have gone or, even worse, they have been taught that seeking help goes against generally-accepted masculine behaviour. This leaves them unsure of how and where to even begin confronting their mental health issues.
Dr Gerkin urged people to be more subtle when talking about mental health issues with the men in their lives and try to encourage more open and honest conversations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, which released its latest suicide data in early June, nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016. If estimates that seven out of 10 of these suicides are men hold true, then as many as 31,500 men took their own lives that year.
Could masculinity really be a reason why men struggle to confide in others about their mental health?
I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.