The Suicide Epidemic: 2016 Why is it 4 times more likely to hit the males in our lives?

depressed man

As a Marriage and Family therapist, I work with individuals, couples, families, adolescents on a daily basis but suicide has hit my family on a personal level. My husband lost his son to suicide over 9 years ago and my 21 year old son has lost 6 friends to suicide since the age of 14, and he is only 21. These tremendous losses have and continue to  impact my family and similarly, individual clients on a daily basis. It has also created within me a great passion to gain a better understanding for what is happening to our youth and the population struggling with this epidemic.

After attending the Colorado Counseling Association’s annual conference this year in April, I was able to learn and listen to the director of Colorado of Public Health and Environment, Jarrod Hindman and Joe Conrad, owner of Cactus Communications, who introduced startling statistics facing the state of Colorado and our nation. Unfortunately, men as a population group, are facing the brunt of this national and state wide epidemic. Colorado ranks 7th across the country when dealing with suicide as a crisis facing individuals and families in our communities. The highest rates are among men ranging from 21 to 54 years of age. During our conference in April, the Colorado Behavioral Health department has made a conscious choice to attack this crisis head on, and  launch an ad campaign called

If you have not gone to this site, go to it! Pass it out to the men in your family and social circles. It is funny and might not appeal to all but if it reaches that one man who needs help it is purposeful. They have chosen humor to appeal to men, and some of the stereotypes of a “typical man” to reach men in general. Go take a look. My husband and I laughed for 20 minutes one night while taking a look at a serious topic.  There is a red phone on the website for people to call who are in serious pain and need to reach a crisis hotline. This site has gotten hundreds of thousands of calls from around the nation.  Colorado has been the launching board for Australia’s similar site.

Why are men hurting and not getting the help they need? Why is suicide affecting 1 out of 4 men? The research has some answers.

*Men are FAR less likely to report being depressed than women. While there is no evidence that women  experience more depression than men, men account for only 1 out of 10 cases of diagnosed cases of depression

*Men have resistance to reaching out and asking for help  and communicating their inner feelings and forming groups for their emotional issues

(Ranking America’s Mental Health: An analysis of Depression across the States, “Prepared for Mental Health America ” by Thomason. Healthcare November 29, 2007)

I believe this goes deeper than men do not show their feelings. There are culturally and societal pressures that have formed and created barriers for our boys and men that have created an environment of restriction in which some of our young boys and men feel trapped, and no escape, except by the results we are now seeing. The conference presenters outlined in April additional points describing a construction of maleness leading to  belief systems held by some men:

*NO SISSY STUFF-stigma of all feminine stereotyped qualities of including vulnerability and openness, never resemble women or display strongly feminine characteristics for fear of being sissy

*THE BIG WHEEL-success, status and the need to be looked up to for what can do or has achieved.

*THE STURDY OAK-a manly air of toughness, confidence and self reliance.

*GIVE ‘EM HELL-the aura of aggression, violence and daring

(source: Advancing suicide prevention: 2007)

These above outlined beliefs get in the way of men touching into their own feelings and inner needs for connection when sad, isolated or desperate., can help men reach out when feeling alone or depressed. But, breaking down the barriers between genders and allowing men to understand their emotions and their need for connections and understanding what depression is, will also help to decrease the number of suicide across the nation and in our state.

It is slightly different for our young adults/teenagers. The age of technology I firmly believe, and see it in my practice, plays a large part in the drama, isolation, and trauma that takes place in our teenagers everyday life. When I grew up, if something “major” happened at school that was shameful or hurtful, you went home, possibly forgot about it, and it might go away by the end of the weekend or only a few people might hear about it. With the age of technology, social media, cell phones, internet, everything is on line, lasts forever, and IMMEDIATE. Nothing goes away. Everything is documented. 24×7! At internet speed. Nothing slows down. Our children never stop. I was in session the other night and 13 year olds were messaging back and forth on some type of Facebook instant messaging about someone should just go kill themselves and telling them how to do it, without at all realizing the consequence of this speech. The parent was horrified, and the children who were involved needed to be stopped. This behavior is rampant with major consequences that is becoming more and more news worthy. Cyber-bullying is becoming a court case common occurrence that we read about or hear about on TV.

Another new tool has been implemented for our young adults and is being launched here in Colorado with exciting results.  Joe Conrad, owner of Cactus Communications, who presented at the April conference and designed with the Colorado behavioral health team the site, has now launched for CSU a wonderful new portal for college age students.   Tony Frank, the President of CSU, Colorado State  University, in February of 2016 shared the news  regarding launching a new web portal for his students that was designed and implemented by CSU alumni journalist and owner of Cactus Communications Joe Conrad.

The portal is designed to help students explore their strengths and areas  for growth throughout the different stages of the college experience.  You@ CSU, fosters student success in three domains: SUCCEED (academic/ career); Thrive(physical/mental health); and MATTER(purpose/community/social connections). The portal serves up relevant information and campus resource, and the content becomes personalized when a student completes brief assessments, fills out a profile, or searches for something specific. There also is a built-in function for students to set goals and check them off as they go. In addition, on line skill-building modules for mental health and well -being continue to be integrated.

This is the link to check it out:

YOU helps you navigate the ups and downs of college life. Then, YOU provides you with all kinds of great tools and resources to help you be happy, healthy and successful, both in school and beyond. This is one of the first portal of its kind and the founders hope to launch this across the country to help reach young adults on college campuses nationwide. Tell your friends and family about YOU@CSU.

Suicide is hitting epidemic proportions in all population groups here in Colorado and across our nation. If you are suffering or know anyone who is, reach out to someone who can help. There is help!