Did you know that men, aged 40-59 are amongst the highest rates of suicide and are in a group that continues to climb? That’s our Dads. That was my Dad, he was 46 years old when I lost him to suicide.
In Canada (2009) the suicide rate for men 40-59 yrs old was 27.4/100,000. For comparison, the death rate to prostate cancer is 19/100,000. That’s right, suicide has a higher mortality (that’s an odd way to put it) rate than prostate cancer. But yet, this weekend, we will see prostate cancer awareness events in most cities and all provinces across Canada to raise awareness and much needed funds for prostate cancer. Do a google search for ‘Father’s Day prostate cancer’, you’ll find an endless list of events. Now do a search for ‘Father’s Day suicide prevention’, it’s rather sad.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Prostate Cancer Canada has done a fantastic job in their awareness and community engagement. However, I believe there’s more to it than a well organized charity doing a good job. There are hospital based fundraisers for prostate cancer this weekend whose mandates are driven by ‘evidence based’ learning. My home town of Thunder Bay is a prime example, the Bell Motorcycle Ride for Dad for prostate cancer has always been a huge success, but yet I’ve never seen an event here for suicide prevention or men’s mental health. Canada Safeway sponsors the Father’s Day run/walk in support of prostate cancer in 15 cities across Canada including; Victoria, Surrey, Regina and Halifax. I wonder if Safeway knows that suicide is a greater killer of our Dads than prostate cancer.
I’ll admit it, part of this is sour grapes on my part as I wish men’s mental health and suicide prevention could get traction in the way cancer has. However, the impossible to ignore fact is that the stigma and taboos surrounding suicide remain so great that the thought of high profile national/community based fundraisers for suicide prevention, especially on Father’s Day, is unfortunately, still a long way off. Interestingly, the greatest preventative tool for suicide, especially with middle aged men is creating a proactive dialogue. See, we’re (yes, I’m a middle-aged man) not very good at talking about how we feel….and this is why we need manly events like running and riding motorcycles to get us talking about our mental health.
So this Father’s Day, ask Dad, “Are you ok?”
Here’s a great site specifically for men and mental health; Man Therapy with Dr. Rich Mahagony
This video was created in memory of Dave Batters who lost his courageous battle with mental illness to suicide.
Suicide Warning Signs
– Appearing sad or depressed most of the time – Withdrawing from family and friends
– Feeling hopeless or helpless
– Feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation.
– Abusing alcohol or drugs
– Exhibiting change in personality
– Losing interest in most activities
– Change in sleeping or eating habits
– Performing poor at work
– Writing a will
– Feeling excessive guilt or shame
It should be noted that some people who die by suicide do not show any suicide warning signs. But about 75 percent of those who die by suicide do exhibit some suicide warning signs, so we need to be aware of what the suicide warning signs are and try to spot them in people. If we do see someone exhibiting suicide warning signs, we need to do everything that we can to help them.
The National Suicide Prevention LifeLine; http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255. This number is available from USA and Canada.
CALL TO ACTION
As a ‘call to action’ this is what I believe should be done.
– We need to make safeTALK (3hr workshop) mandatory in all workplaces, just like CPR and First Aid. After all, this is where men ‘hang out’.
– Fire Fighters, Police Officers and Paramedics all need safeTALK as part of our mandatory training. Whether it’s PTSD or the daily reality of our work, we need to have tools to help our colleagues. We call ourselves ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and now we need tolls to talk to each other like family. It will keep us safer and healthier. I’ve seen it work.
To reach our ‘call to action’ we need administrative leaders; CEO’s, Fire/Police/Paramedic Chiefs to come together with union and professional association leaders to take safeTALK. It’s not about my opinion, it’s yours. You are the leaders and you are our only hope for putting tools in place to help our “Brothers and Sisters” and just as important, the communities that we serve. Research; we have researchers who have done extensive work with First Responders who are willing to work to measure the effectiveness of our ‘Call to Action’.
We need to keep talking but more importantly, we need to start doing something now.
Hey Dad, “are you ok?” Happy Father’s Day.
Something that we all need to understand about suicide is that it is an act of opportunity. Someone will generally think about dying by suicide and have a plan or preferred method to die. This is why we all need to have an open and frank conversation with anyone we may think might be considering suicide. Be considerate and really listen to friends and family. Do not let life get in the way of communication…that is how we lose lives. It’s too easy to get caught up in the mundane and forget the important stuff.